Combating the Zimbabwean crisis – mediation for peace

Whilst the Zimbabwean crisis is complex, it is not entirely impossible to resolve. The crisis is rooted in poor leadership. Hence the antidote is effective leadership which will have a trickle-down effect that translates to political will, meaningful dialogue, commitment to reforms, national healing, restorative justice and economic transformation.

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By Phillip Nyasha Fungurai

The post July 2018 election epoch in Zimbabwe witnessed an eruption of politically-motivated violence, with economically aggrieved citizens and state security agents clashing. A conflict mapping and situational analysis by Global Peace Ambassadors Zimbabwe (2019) revealed that the country is plagued by a political and socio-economic impasse, manifested through violence, protests, and social unrest. The causal factors are complex and intertwined.

Combating the crisis requires cautious and non-partisan engagement of the conflict parties – the Zimbabwe African National Union- Patriotic Front (Zanu PF); the Movement for Democratic Change Alliance (MDC-A); minority political groups; civil society organizations; Zimbabwe State security agents; and the church – in a mediation moderated by neutral actors like the UN and/or Global Peace Chain. The mediation should follow the five tier steps of conflict mediation – identifying the source of conflict; side talks with each conflict party; mapping interests, position and needs of conflict parties; common dialogue; and establishment of a binding legislative national healing framework, transitional authority, and peace agreement informed by a win-win outcome for all conflicting parties. This analysis shall employ these five steps to proffer a diagnosis, prognosis and prescriptive analysis of the Zimbabwean crisis.

Understanding the Zimbabwean crisis

Following the heated 2018 elections, the country faced a governance crisis, manifest through gross human rights violations, arbitrary arrests of human rights activists, looting, violent protests, and a violent military and police clampdown on unarmed civilians, rape, torture and a general reign of terror. Zimbabwe remains plagued by a culture of violence, fear of the known and unknown, as well as negative peace. Despite evidence of all the above socio-political ills, the government and political parties in Zimbabwe never acknowledged, apologized or took responsibility.

Identifying the source of the crisis

The root cause of the crisis is poor leadership, reminiscent of the rest of Africa. The current leadership from all political parties lacks the moral fabric, leadership acumen, empathy with citizens, political will for meaningful dialogue, and ubuntu to usher the country forward. The crisis is embedded in a leadership that advances competition over cooperation; political over development mileage; and political currency over accountability. Politicians can draw valuable lessons from the nature of politics between Kenyan leaders, Raila Odinga and President Uhuru Kenyatta. Mature leadership grounded in engagement, consultation, respect, and socio-political accountability can go a long way in mitigation the Zimbabwean crisis.

Separate side dialogue

The next crucial step for peace mediation is to engage the separate sides in talks moderated by neutral, non-partisan global peace actors. This involves seating down separately with each of the aforementioned conflict paries. Separate dialogues enables understanding of the conflict from different political, social, legal and economic perspectives. Citizens’ concerns must also be factored in. This allows the mediators to understand the positions, needs, and interests of the different conflict parties. At this stage, the mediator also ensures all conflict parties are prepared with regards to behaviour, attitude, temper and psychology to meet the other conflict parties. A deeper understanding maps a congenial path for a joint common dialogue.

Joint common dialogue

The separate dialogues should be accompanied by a Joint Common Dialogue bringing together all the conflict parties on one platform. This means Zanu PF, MDC-A, citizens movements, civil society and the church coming together to mapping collective action to redress the Zimbabwean crisis. Through moderation, the conflict parties should map common interests from those that arose in the separate dialogues. Mapping of common interests will serve to unify the conflict parties towards one goal. One such common interest amongst all Zimbabweans, political groups, churches and public interest groups is the restoration of the economy and pride as the bread basket for Africa. Such a common interest can be capitalized to unify all the political groups to forge a way forward towards economic transformation, national healing and peace. The success of this joint dialogue should ultimately lead to a legally-binding national healing framework, transitional authority and peace agreement that preserves the outcomes of the dialogue to ensure all parties are committed.

Framework for national healing, transitional authority and peace agreement

It is not a public secret that Zimbabwe is a deeply-divided society – wounded by the past, misinformed about the present and terrified of the future. To move towards preserving outcomes of the joint dialogue postulated above, there would be a strong need to establish a framework for national healing. This will facilitate reconciliation, and even compensation for victims of political violence and unjust economic policies. Peace can not be sustainable and positive without redressing the past atrocities. It would be the primary prerogative of the national healing framework to facilitate reconciliation, and restorative justice. This framework should be coupled with a National Transitional Authority that acts as an interim government for a fixed term. This will be crucial for unleashing the country from the political and socio-economic abyss and propelling it towards economic transformation. All this should then be sealed with a Peace Agreement, that reaffirms, recommits, reinforce and guarantee that all parties are responsible for working towards a national strategic vision of the Zimbabwean renaissance.

Whilst the Zimbabwean crisis is complex, it is not entirely impossible to resolve. The crisis is rooted in poor leadership. Hence the antidote is effective leadership which will have a trickle-down effect that translates to political will, meaningful dialogue, commitment to reforms, national healing, restorative justice and economic transformation.

Phillip Nyasha Fungurai is an independent Peace and Governance Consultant and seasoned researcher. He has substantial experience in field research, peace education, civic education and peace building training. He is also passionate about peace, governance, democracy coupled with human rights issues at national, regional and global level. He works with various civil society organizations, research institutes and development think tanks in Zimbabwe, South Africa, and across the globe. Arguments and opinions herein are the author’s personal views and thus no institution or organization should be held accountable.

The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect those of TransConflict.

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