The announcement of 22nd June by the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) of Zimbabwe, that its is withdrawing from the run-off Presidential Elections, due on Friday 27 June, is an indication of the depth of the political crisis in that country.
Yet it provides an opportunity for ZANU (PF) the MDC and other parties, to commence a dialogue to arrive at a workable political solution for the common good of all Zimbabweans.
Since 2001 the ANC and other political parties in this region have witnessed the tragic socio economic decline of Zimbabwe. The political impasse in that country today compounds the negative consequences of an economy that appears to have gone into terminal decline and that has already resulted in massive migration to neighbouring states. The SADC region, made up of developing countries all of whom are struggling for the economic upliftment of their peoples after centuries of colonial domination, can ill afford the instability occasioned by this turn of events.
It has always been and continues to be the view of our movement that the challenges facing Zimbabwe can only be solved by the Zimbabweans themselves. Nothing that has happened in the recent months has persuaded us to revise that view. A lasting solution has to be led by the Zimbabweans and any attempts by outside players to impose regime change will merely deepen the crisis.
Zimbabwe, like many other African countries, was reduced to the status of a colony during the latter part of the 19th century. A column of imperialist adventurers, led by the notorious Cecil John Rhodes, invaded the territory, seized the land from its people and annexed it to the British Empire. To add insult to this injury the British colonial authorities even had the temerity to re-name the country 'Rhodesia'. Land dispossession accelerated to the extent that when Zimbabwe attained independence the White minority, who never exceeded 2% of the population, owned and controlled 70% of the best agricultural land.
Colonialism in Zimbabwe, as in the rest of Africa, was a system of arbitrary, capricious power exercised by a distant colonial office and delegated to local White settlers who wielded it as agents of the imperial power.
As in all other colonies, the African people in Zimbabwe had no rights. They had no voice in how they were governed. Africans were subjected to a host of controls that determined where they could live, where they could work, when they could work, even for whom they could work.
All social goods and services in the country were racially apportioned to the advantage of the White minority who were incrementally granted powers to govern the colony. By the 1960s the White minority exercised sufficient political power in the colony to declare independence from Britain unilaterally in 1965.
The political programme of the national liberation movement in Zimbabwe consequently centred on the right of national self-determination to be attained through democratic elections in which all adult citizens of the country would have the untrammelled right to elect the government of their choice. Restoration of the land seized during colonialism to the indigenous people was a central plank of that programme as well. It was a shared objective of all the liberation movements in this region of Africa to give birth to democratic governments that institutionalised the civil liberties that underpin the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in their respective countries. In addition to the principle of government based on the will of the governed, these include freedom of opinion; freedom of speech; freedom of movement; freedom from arbitrary arrest, freedom of assembly and freedom of association. The end of colonialism envisaged the abolition of all privileges and disabilities based on race, religious affiliation or gender.
To give substance to these freedoms, the national liberation movements of this region also strove for a universal system of education; a universal health care system; full rights for all workers on the land or in the cities; as well as equality before the law.
No colonial power in Africa, least of all Britain in its colony of 'Rhodesia', ever demonstrated any respect for these principles.
It was the people of Zimbabwe , under the leadership of the Patriotic Front , who waged a struggle to win these rights and freedoms.The right to govern themselves and regularly to choose their own government was earned through sacrifices and struggles often eliciting the loss of life. No one, no government , no political party no political leader has the right to abridge or subvert these rights. We are, consequently, deeply dismayed by the actions of the government of Zimbabwe which is riding roughshod over the hardwon democratic rights of the people of that country.
As democrats , the ANC cannot be indifferent to the flagrant violation of every principle of democratic governance.
The ANC is very mindful of the obligations Britain assumed in relation to Zimbabwe at the Lancaster House Talks. Chief amongst these was resolution of the Land Question, i.e. undoing the consequences of well nigh 100 years of British colonial domination. A large measure of responsibility for the current crisis is attributable to the ex-colonial power because it has reneged on that undertaking.
In our efforts to assist Zimbabweans resolve their problems the ANC has consistently supported the efforts of the South African government and the SADC region. After the SADC Summit appointed President Mbeki to act as mediator amongst the parties in Zimbabwe, he has enjoyed the ANC's unstinting support. We were consequently very pleased when, owing to his mediation, a relatively peaceful and free election was held on 29 March 2008.
We were greatly distressed by the incidents of violence during both the run-up and on the election day itself. The unseemly delay in announcing the outcome of the Presidential elections of April caused great anxiety in Zimbabwe and in the region. It was for that reason that the ANC called for their immediate release on 15th April. The Extra-Ordinary SADC Summit, held on 13th April 2008, in Lusaka, Zambia had held the same view.
In its Communiqué the SADC Summit of Heads of Sate and Government noted that since there had been no outright winner of the Presidential poll, a run-off was expected to determine the winner.
While the ANC was sceptical of the feasibility of a run-off, we deferred to the judgement of the SADC leadership and that of the political parties in Zimbabwe and lent our support to the process. However, compelling evidence of violence, intimidation and outright terror; the studied harassment of the leadership of the MDC, including its Presidential candidate, by the security organs of the Zimbabwean government; the arrest and detention of the Secretary-General of the MDC; the banning of MDC public meetings; and denial of access to the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, all have convinced us that free and fair elections are not possible in the political environment prevalent in Zimbabwe today.
The ANC believes that we have an obligation to contribute towards the search for a solution in Zimbabwe. This is a view informed by long-standing fraternal relations amongst the liberation movements of our region of Africa. We are confident that a solution consistent with our shared commitment to human dignity, human rights, the rule of law and the freedoms we all fought for, is attainable.
The Way Forward
The ugly incidents and scenes that have been visited on the people of Zimbabwe persuade us that a run-off Presidential election offers no solution to Zimbabwe's crisis. In a society that is already highly polarised, a run-ff election will only serve to widen the divisions. The very legitimacy of the run-off has already been severely compromised by the actions of both ZANU (PF) militants and those of state officials who do not even conceal their partiality in favour of the governing party.
There can be no solution except through a dialogue in earnest amongst all the political players in Zimbabwe, involving the people of that country. The ANC will play its role, within the framework of the SADC mandate, in searching for a solution that will bring an end to the suffering of the Zimbabwean people.
We have noted, with grave concern, the statements of the Zimbabwean government to the effect that the run-off elections will proceed as planned. We urge the government of Zimbabwe to apply its mind, dispassionately, to the situation at hand in its country and our region. We appeal to the government to take up the challenge of finding a negotiated settlement to the current impasse.
We wish the MDC, ZANU (PF) and all the other parties in Zimbabwe the moral courage, strength and determination to urgently seek a viable solution to the profound problems facing their country.
Statement issued by the ANC National Working Committee June 23 2008