South Africa wants Western nations to lift economic sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe and is pressing Harare’s power-sharing government to speed up reforms needed to bring about elections in the troubled country.
Zimbabwe has been plunged into poverty due to what analysts have said is economic mismanagement by entrenched President Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party, hit with sanctions for suspected human rights abuses and vote rigging.
“It’s not just Zimbabwe that’s saying the sanctions are not working. The entire continent is saying that,” Lindiwe Zulu, South African President Jacob Zuma’s top foreign policy advisor told Reuters on Thursday.
Analysts say the sanctions have been exploited by Mugabe for his political purposes, blaming them for his party’s economic blunders that have caused what once was one of Africa’s richest nations to now be among its poorest.
Zulu is part of a Southern African Development Community initiative led by Zuma aimed at ending the political turmoil in Zimbabwe and holding free and fair elections by next year.
Mugabe, 88, has ruled the country since its independence from Britain in 1980. He was forced into a power-sharing deal with rival and now Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, after a disputed 2008 poll marred by ZANU-PF violence and intimidation.
“Now the challenge for us is to speed up the process and have a result that is lasting, or to make sure whatever decisions are implemented, are things that the Zimbabweans themselves must honour,” said Zulu.
South Africa is the country most affected by turmoil in Zimbabwe. Millions flooded across their border due to Zimbabwean election violence in 2008, straining South Africa’s schools, housing and health services.
Pretoria has been criticised for not pushing Mugabe hard enough but Zulu said forcing change would not solve its neighbour’s underlying problems or bring a stable democracy.
No date has been set for polls but the time frame for the power sharing deal known as the “global political agreement” has key provisions expiring in June 2013 with one stating national elections should take place before the end of the process.
“The fact that the global political agreement does not have an endless life span is pushing them to realise that they don’t have the luxury of time anymore,” said Zulu.
Global aid agencies and international businesses are expected to inject billions of dollars once Zimbabwe, which has the world’s second-largest platinum reserves, has a stable government.
“We do not want to see a repetition of the 2008 scenario. We know what it looked like. It is a lesson for Zimbabweans themselves to ensure it does not repeat,” Zulu said.
“We are very confident that we still have it in our power, just like the Zimbabweans still have it in their power, to turn the tide and do things better,” Zulu said.