Diplomatic offensive needed to achieve reforms

By Viniel Deredza

Last Friday, we reported that the United States’ offer to lift sanctions slapped on the country’s leadership was on the verge of collapsing because of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s failure to implement reforms needed to level the political playing field.

Emmerson Mnangagwa at the World Economic Forum in Davos
Emmerson Mnangagwa at the World Economic Forum in Davos

Despite charming the world with his sweet-toned promises, Mnangagwa’s administration is not translating its rhetoric into action. And with only less than four months before the polls, the electoral playing field remains heavily tilted in favour of the ruling Zanu PF.

While Washington wants Harare to take that giant democratic step to ensure free and fair polls, Zimbabwe’s opposition political parties are not demonstrating the strategic intent to achieve the same by engaging critical blocks on the African continent and beyond.

Ahead of the 2013 polls, the African Union (AU) had recommended reforms that Harare should have long introduced but none of them have been implemented.

Without the opposition piling pressure on the AU and the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) to take stock of recommendations made by the continental body in 2013, Western countries will find it difficult not to endorse a lopsided election that these African institutions would have endorsed, especially if Mnangagwa’s government is able to at least conduct an election not marred by incidents of violence.

In that regard, there won’t be a major challenge with Mnangagwa’s government gaining wider legitimacy even in Western capitals if they win elections under these conditions.

What you have in the forthcoming election are two things. The issue of reforms is being dangled as an incentive by some in the international community to ensure that the current government holds credible elections in order to reap the benefits of full readmission in the global space in the post-election and post president Robert Mugabe era.

Then you have some in the international community who simply want the current government to do the barest minimum in terms of reforms and simply ensure stability rather than full democratisation in order for this same readmission.

Mnangagwa’s government is aware of these two tracks around reforms and post-election global space for a Zanu PF administration, should they win the upcoming polls even in the absence of reforms.

The opposition’s best bet is to scuttle this stealthy plan by Zanu PF to seek legitimacy by hook or crook. A diplomatic offensive is therefore long overdue to put the AU, Sadc, and the international community in an invidious situation whereby they should never endorse a poll outcome that is not predicated by reforms.