I Peace Building and Strengthening Institutions for Good Governance

ZANU-PF and MDC Power-Sharing. Zimbabwe Still at a Crossroads?

Siphamandla Zondi


For nine years Zimbabwe descended into an abyss of a political-cum-economic crisis. This led to a gradual decline of the economy, political polarization, and the disintegration of the state. During all this time, neither loud diplomacy by the West, nor “quiet” diplomacy by African states could lead Zimbabwe out of the conflict. With the signing of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) between the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and the two Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) factions in September 2008, Zimbabwe finally edged closer to finding the long-elusive political settlement and a formula for establishing a new political and economic dispensation. Four months earlier Zimbabwe had witnessed relatively free and fair elections for the first time in many years, only for the situation to degenerate again into an orgy of political violence and intolerance in the run-up to the presidential runoff elections in June 2008.

Thus, the positive atmosphere of the run-up to the March 29, 2008, elections gave way to political conflict, prompting the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to intensify its diplomatic moves to get the two sides of the conflict to find a negotiated political settlement. As the SADC envoy, former South African president Thabo Mbeki, pushed the parties in intensive talks behind closed doors, the economy continued to sink into an abyss, with inflation and the prices of consumer goods rising fast to the detriment of livelihoods in villages and townships. The humanitarian situation also worsened with the continued collapse of the social and physical infrastructure and over 80 percent unemployment. The cholera epidemic, which broke out in October 2008 and continued well into early 2009, infected thousands and killed hundreds of Zimbabweans.

Yet, the peace negotiations remained on course, and some progress was registered with the formation of bipartisan monitoring mechanism and the decision by the MDC faction led by Morgan Tsvangirai (the MDC-T) in late January 2009 to join the inclusive government. Both factions of the MDC are active drivers of the Government of National Unity (GNU), and trust amongst the parties has grown with the passage of time.

This chapter provides a comprehensive overview of the evolution of the peace process in Zimbabwe. It argues that although the negotiated process of conflict resolution through mediation has stalemated a number of times and even collapsed on some occasions, it can be a useful basis for lasting peace and democracy in Zimbabwe. This chapter argues that positive outcomes of the protracted progress are due partly to the skill of the SADC facilitation team and partly to the fact that the conflict was ripe for a negotiated settlement; the stalemate is no longer bearable for the political elite because it erodes both their privileges and legitimacy before significant constituencies.

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