The Observatory, Allen Hungwe
IN the past month we have seen some interesting developments in the Southern African Development Community (SADC with regards to its role in resolving the Zimbabwean political situation.
In fact, we have seen some defining evolution of SADC’s conduct and approach to conflict in the region, since the regional bloc undertook its role as guarantor of the Global Political Agreement (GPA). Some scholars actually argue that SADC needed the Zimbabwe crisis (together with Madagascar) in order for it to wake up to the reality of the need to strengthen its approach to peace and security. I have always alluded to the slow pace at which diplomacy moves but to the long term traction that it attains. Is SADC now at a stage where such traction is being achieved or are we seeing just momentary acts of courage that will all fade away with the passage of time?
On March 9, SADC held its double Troika meeting in Pretoria at which the Zimbabwean facilitator, President Jacob Zuma, presented his update on the situation in the country. Interestingly, Zuma’s report, though many have not put much focus on it, resonates with what we have now termed the Livingstone Summit. At that Livingstone summit in 2011, we saw SADC taking a more confrontational and decisive approach to the Zimbabwe crisis and it was at that meeting that SADC, for the first time, criticised President Robert Mugabe in his face. I believe the double troika meeting of March 9, may not have had that kind of drama, but still more it seemed to ride on the same wavelength.
There were a couple of things Zuma recommended at that meeting. He recommended that there be security sector realignment in Zimbabwe before elections are held. As much as I remember this is the first time that SADC has taken the case of military conduct and behaviour in Zimbabwe head-on. Even during the negotiations of the GPA, it’s on record that former South African president, Thabo Mbeki, the then facilitator, avoided any discussion around some kind of reforms in the security sector. Having realised that the military still stand out as one of the key threats to a credible election process in Zimbabwe, Zuma has once again taken the courage to call for halting of the truancy we have seen in some of our uniformed forces.
Zuma also called for strengthening of the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Comm-ittee (JOMIC) — which has largely been docile and overridden by political machinations.
I believe JOMIC is the next critical battle ground upon which the next election will be won and lost. Zuma recommended that the SADC officials, who we know ZANU-PF has been pushing back against their deployment to JOMIC since 2011, now need to be in place. He further alluded to the fact that if we don’t get these SADC officials to JOMIC then we nearly have to forget about a credible election process in Zimbabwe. The recommendations go further to propose that instead of the two officials on stand-by, Namibia also needs to send a third official. This is good thinking by Zuma. Namibia will be the incoming chair of the Organ for Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation as from August 2013. Whether the election in Zimbabwe will have happened by then or not, it’s critical that the then chair of the Organ be represented in JOMIC. It also helps build continuity in SADC’s engagement and interaction with JOMIC.
One of the realisations by Zuma seem to be that the failure of representation of SADC in JOMIC has led to a failure by the regional bloc to influence GPA implementation processes. Zuma went on to further propose that not only should these SADC officials be deployed to JOMIC but that the facilitation team also be directly involved in this critical body.
If Zuma’s proposal goes through, what it means is that JOMIC will now have two SADC officials (from Zambia and Tanzania), another official from Namibia (representing the incoming chair of the Organ as from August) and the facilitation team. This looks like an “encirclement” strategy. With that level of SADC involvement and representation, JOMIC will become the most powerful institution in engaging with the Zimbabwe crisis. Since its formation, JOMIC has really been dealing with community, district and provincial conflicts and GPA issues. It has not built the muscle to address the same issues at a national level and especially by holding the GPA political leadership to account. Given Zuma’s proposal and emphatic push, the landscape is likely to change.
A direct linkage between SADC and JOMIC has always been the missing link in fully addressing the anomalies of the GPA and its implementation.
Zuma has also proposed that SADC sends in early observers for the Zimbabwe elections. His proposal is, however, interesting in that, he calls for observers who are able to correct any election process anomalies that they find on the ground. This is a shift from the traditional SADC manner of observing election.
Firstly, SADC has never been known to deploy early observers and secondly, Zuma seems to imply that the Zimbabwe case does not merely need observers but rather, monitors of the elections. Whereas observers come without an interventionist mandate, the monitors have the authority to correct whatever needs attention along the process.
Zuma’s proposal also seems hinged on JOMIC. SADC may not have the capacity to send in early observers, given financial constraints and other restrictive bureaucratic tendencies. However, if SADC strengthens its representation at JOMIC, this body will become the de facto early observation platform. JOMIC has the provincial, district and community structures to be able to capture and transmit information in real time. JOMIC also seems to have the mandate, within the GPA, to take corrective action to address in-process anomalies in order to enhance GPA compliance. SADC can also ride on this platform for its elections monitoring intentions.
The executive secretary of SADC, Tomaz Salamao gave an interview to one of the Zimbabwean weekly newspaper in March lambasting JOMIC for its historical failures, weaknesses and the poor attitude of politicians towards it. This may not have been an isolated barrage against JOMIC but could have been complimentary to Zuma’s efforts to strengthen the body.
I believe we will see more and more of JOMIC as we approach elections. We will see SADC paying more attention to this body and work through it. We will see a lot more support come to it and it will become the greatest interface between what’s happening inside Zimbabwe and that which needs to happen from outside, especially through SADC. ZANU-PF has however, read these signs. This is why all of a sudden we have seen Jonathan Moyo, who was assigned by his party to this body in 2012, coming out more visible at this stage. He is now leading his party’s resistance to the clawing-in of SADC into JOMIC. ZANU-PF has made it clear that SADC will not be allowed to play a more active role in JOMIC and that the facilitation team will not be welcome to work directly within and with JOMIC.
In fact, ZANU-PF argues that the work of JOMIC involves monitoring the work of the facilitators themselves. The party goes on to claim that JOMIC is a sovereign body that must have no interference from outsiders. What ZANU-PF forgets is that by failure to hold a credible election in 2008 and by failure to implement an agreement that they were also signatory to (the GPA), that constitutes self-abrogation of one’s sovereignty.
We cannot claim sovereignty in order to demand the freedom to do wrong. It is the responsibility of SADC, as our regional mother body, to somehow intervene where they see glaring abuse of the very sovereignty that ZANU-PF claim.
JOMIC will become the new battleground; in fact it has already become that. My only worry is that the other MDC parties, the MDC-T especially, do not seem to take its JOMIC role seriously. The party does not yet see where the political tide in Zimbabwe is headed towards. If the MDCs continue with their casual approach to JOMIC, this will dilute the new SADC push while urging ZANU-PF’s resistance. They don’t realise that SADC and JOMIC have in fact become the new battleground for Zimbabwe elections.