Crisis, Dialogue and Transition in Zimbabwe: Quo Vadis Zim?

Executive Summary

This paper critically analyses the ‘Zimbabwean crisis’ and how this has impacted its transition politics. The paper takes a historic approach that goes back to 1980, looking at the various epochs mapping the contours of conflict and teasing out the attempts made at addressing the emerging fault lines.The report adopts Moore’s (2003) work on ‘triple crisis of primitive accumulation, nation state formation and democratisation’ to problematise transition politics in Zimbabwe and explain what could be the missing link.

The paper makes the following observations:

  1. There are three key moments in Zimbabwe’s transition debate: The 1979 Lancaster talks; 1987 Unity Accord and 2008 Global Political Agreement.

2. Zimbabwe has experienced repeated bouts of failed transitions which revolve around three key questions:

  • primitive accumulation – how wealth is produced and distributed in society,
  • national-state formation – the process by which national identity, belonging and cohesion is built,
  • democratisation – the process by which power is distributed and exercised in society.

These three questions are further broken into thirteen sub questions and the paper discusses how they inform and shape Zimbabwe’s transition politics.

3. This means Zimbabwe’s crisis multi-dimensional and not a single cause narrative, and to resolve it entails simultaneously tackling these three facets.

4. Zimbabwe’s major parties, Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and Movement for Democratic Change Alliance (MDC-A) on the causes of the Zimbabwe crisis. ZANU-PF lays the blame on Western imposed sanctions. MDC-A lays the blame on the unresolved electoral legitimacy question. All these positions by the major parties are limited narratives.

5. There is consensus with civil society that there is a crippling political and economic crisis in Zimbabwe and dialogue is the most viable route to resolve this crisis, but it needs to be broadened beyond political parties.

6. Past processes of dialogue have failed because of elite arrangements that focussed on the narrow interests of political party elites and not addressing the fundamental fault lines of conflict in society

7. There is an emerging shift in policy direction within SADC, especially in South Africa, as there is an emerging consensus there is a crisis in Zimbabwe, and the region has to find solutions and act on it.

8. Ultimately, the paper argues that at the heart of the Zimbabwean crisis lies an emerging nationalistic military business and political class that has been attempting to grow its tentacles in all sectors of society. Most of the dialogue processes that have happened in Zimbabwe have missed ‘the military factor’ in resolving the political and economic impasse leading to repeating bouts of botched transitions.

9. To resolve Zimbabwe’s transition challenges, the paper proposes two solutions:

  • Civil society to initiate and implement a process of citizen’s dialogue series on how to resolve the identified three spheres and sub-spheres of conflict, but using the 2013 Constitution as the point of departure.
  • There is the need to initiate a political process that engages the emerging military business-politico elite to come up with a political settlement with the objective of demilitarising public affairs.

10. SADC provides the most viable option to address this militarisation of Zimbabwe’s body politic. Whilst there are suggestions on the possibility of engaging the United Nations to resolve the transition challenges in Zimbabwe, this is most like likely to falter due to the politics of the UN Security Council.

11. Finally, civil society needs to take advantage of the emerging consensus within SADC that there is a crisis in Zimbabwe, and the invitation to come up with practical solutions by South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) Minister, Naledi Pandor.

Read the full report here (6MB PDF)

Source: Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition

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