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September 15th 2010 marked the second anniversary of Zimbabwe’s Global Political Agreement (GPA), negotiated as a political compromise in the aftermath of the violence and contested elections of March-June 2008. Are there reasons for the proud parents – the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which brokered the agreement – and family members in the Government of National Unity (GNU) – President Mugabe of ZANU-PF, Prime Minister Tsvangirai of MDC-T and Deputy Prime Minister Mutambara of MDC-M – to celebrate?

A tale of mixed fortunes

Every birthday is an opportunity to take stock and reflect on what has been and what is yet to be achieved. The signing of the GPA had ushered in a period of optimism in Zimbabwe, leading many  to believe that the country would transcend from a past of political polarisation and economic distress into new democratic dispensation.

Two years down the line, the GPA’s scorecard shows a tale of mixed fortunes. With the three political parties of the GNU still not fully agreeing on the implementation of the GPA, progress has been slow and painful.

Nevertheless, it is commonly acknowledged that under the GNU Zimbabwe has made discernible headway, namely in the economic sector, as proven by the increased stability of the economy in the past two years. Inflation has been markedly curbed, from quintillion to single digit levels, and food is back on the shelves.

Also, schools and universities have re-opened as teachers and lecturers have responded to the boost of confidence that the new political constellation promised. So has been the case for hospitals, with doctors and nurses resuming work, although conditions remain tough considering the limited access to medicine and supplies.

Over the past two years, there has been a clear sense of hope that the country formerly known as the ‘breadbasket of Africa’ may be on the firm path to recovery. Even some of the government ministries have shown new impetus as some of the new civil servants introduced a fresh focus.

A challenge worth taking up

The GPA has observed positive macroeconomic repercussions, and political ones too, albeit to a lesser extent. This has without any doubt contributed to increased overall stability and brought the agreement closer to its original objective of establishing a conducive environment for democratic elections.

However, the consolidation of long-term stability cannot be achieved through sole economic and technical measures. In order for those piecemeal gains to last and restore confidence, the political reforms envisaged in the GPA are needed, including constitutional and legal reforms as well as justice and security sector reforms.

The current political stalemate under the agreement shows this, having already taken its toll on the economy this year: The first quarter of the year has seen some of the earlier gains of the GNU starting to erode, with the government revising its initial economic growth for 2010 downwards.

Zuma needs to walk the talk

For the GPA to be fully implemented, the failure of leadership at the global level has to be addressed. As such, the gradual progress observed on the introduction of reforms and the Constitutional reform process need to be

supported by the regional engagement of the SADC, guarantor of the GPA, and the international community with renewed vigour. And, considering Zimbabwe’s and South Africa’s common history and the fact that the rainbow nation spearheaded the negotiations leading to the GPA,  South African president Jacob Zuma has a key role to play in pressing all involved parties to see the transition through to a successful conclusion.

To be sure, at the end of the EU-South Africa summit which President Zuma attended in Brussels on September 28, it was recognized that “the complementary efforts of South Africa and the EU aimed at promoting and supporting the implementation of the [GPA] (…) should be strengthened”.

But such words must now be translated into action; in particular, political and financial support must be upheld both for the implementation of all phases of the Constitutional reform process and the preparation of future elections that can be considered free and fair.

A new Constitution high on the agenda for a better Zimbabwe

A conducive environment for such elections involves above all the completion of the ongoing Constitutional reform process. For Zimbabwe to fully cross over from the reality of crisis, institutional changes oriented towards democracy are needed, as well as serious investment in a new constitution that genuinely reflects the views of the people, in support of national healing and reconciliation.

Drawing on its experience and its consequent expertise, EPD is a firm supporter and advocate of this view. EPD also believes that, while donor assistance alone cannot resolve Zimbabwe’s fragility, the strengthening of institutions and civil society organizations, which can lay the groundwork for democratic accountability, is the first and most important step.

Among EPD’s latest initiatives, a Zimbabwean-driven civic education and information campaign could serve as an example for ensuring that all Zimbabwean voices are heard in the consultative process. Within the framework of this EU-funded project, the implementing partners have also been playing a key role in strengthening existing channels of communication between civil society and the drivers of the official Constitutional reform process – notably the COPAC.

In the coming months, EPD will continue following the process and actively contributing towards setting the right conditions for the timely achievement of the next steps. Key among them are the effective drafting of a new Constitution and its approval by the Parliament as well as the referendum on the new document, likely to be scheduled for mid- next year. Aware of the fact that Zimbabwe’s transition to democracy is more of a process than an event, EPD will also work alongside partners to monitor the post-referendum and the elections period to support the birth of a new Zimbabwe.

On September 14, EPD co-organized debate meetings in Brussels, in cooperation with the Zimbabwe Europe Network (ZEN). A festive luncheon seminar and a round table meeting in the European Parliament allowed for MEPs, representatives of the European Commission and the EU Presidency, as well as other European NGOs to gain first-hand knowledge from the experience of Zimbabwean civil society leaders.   

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