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Zimbabwe: Civil Society on Crisis
Africa Policy E-Journal
April 19, 2003 (030419)
Zimbabwe: Civil Society on Crisis
(Reposted from sources cited below)
This posting contains excerpts from a statement released by the
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition earlier this month. The full statement
and much additional documentation is available at the link
indicated below on http://www.kubatana.net
Other recent reports include the unofficially released report by
the Commonwealth Secretary-General, which also noted the further
deterioration of the economic, political, and human rights crisis
in Zimbabwe. The Commonwealth report is available from Zimbabwe
Recent U.S. statements are available on the State Department
website at http://www.state.gov/p/af/ci/zi
For additional earlier background and analyses, see previous
E-Journal postings at:
Sovereignty Through Democracy - The Commonwealth and Zimbabwe's
Multi-layered Crisis - Excerpts
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition
April 10, 2003
A delegation from the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition presented this
report to the Deputy Secretary General of the Commonwealth on
Thursday, 10 April on the current situation in Zimbabwe and on the
role of the Commonwealth in addressing this crisis.
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Box CY 434 Causeway, Harare ZIMBABWE
Phone/Fax +263 4 747 817 email@example.com
[The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coordinating Committee consists of the nine
major civil society coalitions, namely:
The Coalition on the Constitution under National Constitutional
Assembly (NCA); The Coalition on Election Support under Zimbabwe
Election Support Network (ZESN); The Confederacy of Trade Unions
under Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU); The Women's
Coalition (WC); The Coalition of Media Groups under Media Institute
of Southern Africa, Zimbabwe chapter (MISA); The Coalition on
Transparency issues under Transparency International- Zimbabwe
(TI-Z); The Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU); The
Coalition of Human Rights Groups, under the NGO-Human Rights Forum;
The Coalition of groups dealing with social, economic and policy
NB. The coalitions collectively represent in excess of five hundred
civil society groups .Two hundred and fifty (250) of these civil
society groups are directly affiliated to the Crisis Committee.]
This paper (1) seeks to achieve three things, namely:
- To respond to the question of how the Commonwealth ought to
respond to the Zimbabwean crisis following a year-long suspension
that will only be tackled at the Commonwealth Heads of State and
Government (CHOGM) meeting in Abuja in December 2003. In
particular, what it is that the Commonwealth did not do over the
past year that it can improve on prior to the December CHOGM
meeting. Particular reference shall be made herein to the need for
a clear Performance Monitoring Mechanism (PMM); clearly defined
performance indicators /milestones and a well thought out,
participatory and broadly inclusive system of consultations with
all stakeholders (2).
- To give an update of the situation on the ground. In particular
to answer the question whether the situation has improved since
Zimbabwe's suspension on March, 19th 2002;
- To propose a way forward in engaging the Zimbabwean crisis
generally as well as returning the country to normalcy.
These issues are tackled within a broad context of the Zimbabwean
crisis that acknowledges the centrality of land question to the
bilateral relations between the Zimbabwean and UK government.
However, this broad perspective refutes that there is any linkage
between the land question and the gross human rights violations
being perpetuated by uniformed forces and state sponsored militia.
While equitable land reform should be supported, human rights
violations must be openly condemned. This report thus looks at the
extent of Zimbabwe's compliance with the Harare Principles with
regard to the human rights issue.
1.2 Context - Commonwealth Declarations
The Harare Commonwealth Declaration, 1991 is founded on a shared
commitment to the following fundamental principles:
- The liberty of the individual under the law, equal rights for all
citizens regardless of gender, race, colour, creed or political
- The inalienable right of every eligible individual to participate
by means of free and democratic political processes (3) in framing
the society in which he or she lives;
- That racial prejudice and intolerance is a dangerous sickness as
well as a threat to healthy development. Further, that racial
discrimination is an unmitigated evil;
- That every individual is entitled to dignity and equality;
- That socio-economic development should seek to satisfy the basic
needs and aspirations of the vast majority as well as removing the
wide disparities in living standards amongst the human race;
- Democracy, democratic processes and institutions which reflect
national circumstances, the rule of law and independence of the
judiciary, just and honest government (4);
- Fundamental human rights, including equal rights and
opportunities for all citizens regardless race, colour, creed or
- Equality for women, so that they may exercise their full and
- Provision of universal access to education for the national
- Extending the benefits of development within a framework of
respect for human rights;
- The protection of the environment.
Having affirmed and committed themselves to these principles the
Commonwealth Heads of State and Government noted as follows in
paragraph 13 of the Harare Declaration:
" We the Heads of Government express our determination to renew
and enhance the value and importance of the Commonwealth as an
institution which can and should strengthen and enrich the lives
not only of its members and their peoples, but also of the wider
community of peoples of which they are part."
In 1995, the Commonwealth adopted the Millbrook Commonwealth Action
Programme on the Harare Declaration. The Millbrook Action Programme
provides for measures in response to violations of the Harare
principles. In particular paragraph 3 provides that 'where a member
country is perceived to be clearly in violation of the Harare
Declaration, then 'appropriate steps should be taken to express the
collective concern of Commonwealth countries and to encourage the
restoration of democracy within a reasonable time frame.' These
measures include, but are not limited to, the following (5):
- Immediate public expression by the Secretary-General of the
Commonwealth's collective disapproval of any such infringement of
the Harare principles;
- Encouraging bilateral demarches by member countries, especially
those within the region, both to express disapproval and to support
early restoration of democracy;
- Appointment of an envoy or a group of eminent Commonwealth
representatives where, following the Secretary-General's contacts
with the authorities concerned, such a mission is deemed beneficial
in reinforcing the Commonwealth's good offices role;
- Stipulation of up to two years as a time frame for the
restoration of democracy where the institutions are not in place to
permit the holding of elections within, say, a maximum of six
- Pending restoration of democracy, exclusion of the government
concerned from participation at ministerial-level meetings of the
Commonwealth, including CHOGMs;
- Suspension of participation at all Commonwealth meetings and of
Commonwealth technical assistance if acceptable progress is not
recorded by the government concerned after a period of two years;
- Consideration of appropriate further bilateral and multilateral
measures by all member states (e.g. limitation of government to
government contacts; people-to-people measures; trade restrictions;
and, in exceptional cases, suspension from the association), to
reinforce the need for change in the event that the government
concerned chooses to leave the Commonwealth and/or persists in
violating the principles of the Harare Declaration even after two
The mechanism for implementing these measures is the Commonwealth
Ministerial Action Group (CMAG). CMAG's task is to assess "the
nature of the infringement and recommend measures for collective
Commonwealth action aimed at speedy restoration of democracy and
1.3 2002 Presidential Election
In March 2002, Zimbabwe held its Presidential Poll, without any
real attempt to attend to the concerns raised by the Commonwealth
Secretary-General, CMAG and the international community. In the
event, both the Commonwealth Observer mission and the SADC-PF
delegation declared the election "unfree and unfair".
The SADC-Parliamentary Forum delegation held that the Presidential
election was neither free nor fair (6). Their reasons included:
- Violence and intimidation in the run-up to the election;
- Partisan conduct of the Police
- Non-availability of the Voters Roll before the election;
- Restrictions on the freedom of opposition parties to campaign;
- Limited availability of information on the location of polling
stations, and a reduction of the number of polling stations in
- Lack of an independent Electoral Commission;
- Limited access of opposition parties to the public media.
Similarly, the Commonwealth Observer Mission concluded that the
Presidential Poll "did not reflect the free expression of the will
of the people and thus was deeply flawed." (7) The report noted
that the election had been held in a climate of fear and suspicion.
Concerns of the Commonwealth included:
- Widespread state-sponsored political violence;
- Enactment of repressive legislation whose provisions and effect
would result in the violation of several key provisions of the
Harare Commonwealth Declaration of 1991;
- Youth and other state-sponsored militia that were deployed to
terrorise opponents of the government;
- Irregularities relating to conduct and process of the
- Long queues of voters in urban centres.
Following the Club report, a "Troika" was set-up under the auspices
of the Commonwealth to look into the Zimbabwean issue with a view
to restoring normalcy and democratic governance. The Troika met in
London on 19 March 2002 and recommended that Zimbabwe be suspended
from participating in the committees of the Commonwealth for a year
until it has attended to the concerns raised in the Commonwealth
Club Presidential Poll Report (8). At the time the troika intimated
"This issue will be revisited in 12 month's time, having regard to
progress in Zimbabwe, based on the Commonwealth Harare Principles
and reports from the Commonwealth Secretary General."
At the same time, the Commonwealth Secretary General was mandated
"engage the government of Zimbabwe to ensure that the specific
recommendations from the Commonwealth Observer Group report notably
on the management of future elections in Zimbabwe are implemented."
In addition, as provided in the 19 March 2002 Marlborough
Statement, the Commonwealth supported initiatives to address:
- political violence;
- the need for inter-party reconciliation;
- food shortages;
- economic recovery;
- the restoration of political stability;
- the rule of law; and the conduct of future elections.
Notably, although the Marlborough Statement acknowledges that "land
is at the core of the crisis in Zimbabwe and cannot be separated
from other issues of concern," Zimbabwe's suspension from the
Commonwealth had nothing to do with the Land Reform Programme per
se. Nor was it in any way related to Zimbabwe's bi-lateral
relations with the United Kingdom. This fact is important in
assessing the extent to which Zimbabwe has managed to address the
factors that led to its suspension as well as the way forward
regarding Zimbabwe full re-admission into the Commonwealth. There
is also a need to reflect beyond Zimbabwe's fate in the
Commonwealth and explore other possibilities that might lead to an
amicable resolution of its multi-layered crisis. In this regard,
this paper outlines a possible process of achieving such an
amicable resolution to the Zimbabwean crisis.
3. Defining the Way Forward
In sum, there has been a near-total closure of democratic space and
a clampdown on democratic rights in Zimbabwe. The joint effect of
repressive legislation referred to above as well as police
brutality has meant that the possibilities for unfettered
mobilisation and free expression has been seriously diminished.
Moreover, the constraint on democratic space has not improved but
deepened in the first year of Zimbabwe's suspension.
There are two outstanding factors about the political crisis in
Zimbabwe. The first one is the wanton use of violence by the state
relying on the agency of war veterans and youth militia. This is
aided by a claim that violence in the post-colonial era is an
extension of the violence of the liberation struggle. In a sense
that such violence is a necessary tool for maintaining state power
(9). The second is the serious infraction between the discourse and
politics of the liberation struggle on the one hand and advocacy
for human and civil liberties on the other hand (10).
Zimbabwean society remains severely polarised between pro-reform
and pro-establishment forces. This impasse has for the greater part
meant that there is no collective effort to find a national
solution to the obtaining crises. Political and social conditions
must be created within Zimbabwe to seriously consider their vision
for the future of Zimbabwe. Such forces must move beyond the
current problems of repressive legislation, political violence,
food shortages, etc. to a discussion of a post-crisis future for
In an effort to urge this discourse forward, one scenario is
described below. While this report does not detail the necessary
methods which would be required to enact such a programme, it is
hoped that by opening up the debate, the steps, tactics and
timeframes required for achieving a democratic dispensation in
Zimbabwe can be developed. Furthermore, the time frames discussed
below represent overlapping requirements, and should not be seen as
isolated, quantum units.
In the immediate future, Zimbabwe desperately requires a
stabilisation of her economic and political situation. This may
require an element of mediated intervention, through SADC, the AU,
the UN, or another credible and honest broker.
This intervention should insist upon, among other things:
- An immediate end to political violence;
- The cessation of all organised violence and torture as well as
the immediate disbanding of all militia and in particular the youth
- The immediate return to respect for human rights, democratic
principles and the rule of law.
- The restoration of non-partisan enforcement and professional
conduct by state security forces;
- The depoliticisiation of food distribution;
- Opening up of political space, particularly through the repeal or
withdrawal of all draconian legislation, including the Public Order
and Security Act (POSA); the Access to Information and Protection
of Privacy Act (AIPPA), the Broadcasting Services Act and portions
of the then proposed Labour Bill;
More broadly, during this period consensus should be built from all
stakeholders on the terms, mandate, duration and constitution of a
transitional arrangement. This will only be achieved through the
opening of democratic space and by allowing participatory
stakeholder interventions in the policy process.
The transitional phase implies Constitutional reform, which will
create a framework to facilitate legislative reform, including the
repeal of repressive legislation and the introduction of new
These processes may entail the following steps:
- Identification of neutral brokers/mediators;
- Opening up of dialogue between and among stakeholders;
- Agreement on broad principles for transition, a Transitional
Constitution and Transitional Authority;
- Defining the mandate of the Transitional Authority, its
composition, process and timeframe.
In addition, this period should see the stabilisation of the
humanitarian crisis, particularly in terms of access to food. It
should also facilitate a reduction in the abuse of state authority.
This may include staff training for civil servants, in particular
security personnel. This should include a provision for weeding out
non-cooperative elements if necessary.
4. Performance Monitoring Mechanisms
The period between now and the CHOGM summit in December 2003 will
require that several pressing issues are addressed. In addition,
definite time-frames and monitoring structures be put in place to
address these issues, which include:
- Stop state sponsored or facilitated violence and organised
- Disband the youth militia and other non-legislated forces;
- Repeal or progressive amendment of repressive legislation such as
POSA and AIPPA;
- Opening up of democratic space;
- Depoliticisation of food distribution;
- Depoliticisation of law enforcement agencies and application of
the rule of law.
The most appropriate mechanism of ensuring this would be CMAG (11).
CMAG and the Secretary General's Office should mount a thorough
fact-finding mission into Zimbabwe with a mandate to broadly
consult with all key stakeholders from political parties, Faith
Based Organisations, Civil Society groups and businesses. This fact
finding mission could receive both oral and written evidence on a
wide range of issues constituting the multi-layered Zimbabwe
crisis. This mission could work with a small multi-stakeholder
committee on Zimbabwe.
The essential requirement for Zimbabwe is democratic governance.
The Coalition believes that this can best be achieved through a
transformational phase. This phase is essential for the long term
social, economic and political stability of the nation. This
includes the development of a democratic culture, and addressing
the social and psychological requirements of national healing.
Whether this should be through a truth and justice style process,
or through some other tribunal of justice is a matter for
Zimbabwean society to discuss and agree to. Ultimately, Zimbabwean
needs peace, security and development through the establishment of
a legitimate, democratic government.
(1) Position of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, 1 April 2003.
Crisis in Zimbabwe is a grouping of civil society organisations and
coalitions whose vision is a democratic Zimbabwe. The Coalition's
mandate is to address the twin questions of governance and
(2) At the time of writing this report, SADC Foreign Ministers are
in Harare supposedly consulting with stakeholders. None of the
Coalition's 350 member organisations have been approached to make
any input into these consultations. This may signify a flaw in the
SADC process, but it is too early to pass conclusive judgements.
(3) We understand political processes to include public debate, the
right to peacefully demonstrate and engage in other forms of
(4) This is why genuine access to information, robust public
debate, citizen participation in the policy process is crucial to
the restoration of normalcy in Zimbabwe.
(5) A good number of the measures outlined herein have been adopted
with very little impact. Hence the call for more decisive action
and attendant performance indicators and a functional monitoring
(6) See Appendix 1, Report from the SADC-PF Observer Mission, March
(7) See Appendix 2, the Executive Summary of the Report from the
Commonwealth Observer Mission, March 2003.
(8) See Appendix 3, the Marlborough Statement.
(9) A critique of this violence has dominated the oppositional
forces advocacy for an alternative politics.
(10) Human rights advocacy of this nature is often uncritical of
globalisation and its excesses. Resultantly, such advocacy is
poorly equipped to found a post-nationalist order.
(11) We note in this regard that not only has the Troika's mandate
lapsed, but it also failed to carry out broad- based consultations.
Its members have taken fairly partisan views on the Zimbabwean
crisis thus preventing them from being neutral brokers.
Date distributed (ymd): 030419
Region: Southern Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +economy/development+
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