Zimbabwean opposition Movement for Democratic Change (mdc) party president Morgan Tsvangirai is in South Africa April 7 seeking the South African government’s influence to resolve Zimbabwe’s elections crisis



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Summary

 

Zimbabwean opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party president Morgan Tsvangirai is in South Africa April 7 seeking the South African government’s influence to resolve Zimbabwe’s elections crisis. South Africa’s unlikely influence and the MDC’s inability to force a political solution means Zimbabwe’s ruling party is likely to win an election runoff it is preparing its security forces for.



 

Analysis 

Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai traveled to South Africa to seek the South African government’s influence to resolve Zimbabwe’s elections crisis. But South Africa is unlikely to sway Zimbabwe’s long-time ruling regime led by President Robert Mugabe.

With the ruling party mobilizing security forces in the run-up to a possible runoff election, the opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), stands little chance to enforce a victory on its own as the delays in the reporting official results from the March 29 presidential elections have stretched more than a week.

Tsvangirai, who arrived in South Africa late April 6, plans to meet with South African government officials before returning to Zimbabwe late April 7. Tsvangirai’s MDC party won a slim majority in Zimbabwe’s March 29 parliamentary elections, and has declared itself the winner in unofficial results in the presidential election. Tsvangirai is expected to call on the South African government to use its means of influence to pressure Mugabe to step aside.

The South African government is unlikely to provide that influence over its neighbor to its north, which has been ruled by Mugabe since it became an independent nation in 1980. Despite being mandated by the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) as a lead mediator of the Zimbabwean elections crisis, South African President Thabo Mbeki is not believed able or willing to pressure Mugabe. On April 5, Mbeki said it was not the time for action against Zimbabwe. Moreover, Mbeki is believed to be not entirely supportive of Tsvangirai, whom he won’t meet at this time anyway. Mbeki is traveling from a conference in London to the April 8-9 India-Africa summit in New Delhi, which is scheduled April 8 and 9.

Two other SADC mediators, former Zambia President Kenneth Kaunda and Mozambique President Joachim Chissano, are retired and have no means of influencing Mugabe, and SADC itself is not believed interested in seeking any military intervention in Zimbabwe, nor is it clear that South Africa has the military capability – or the interest – to intervene in Zimbabwe. South Africa’s military has, since the African National Congress (ANC) party came to power in 1994, prioritized becoming an integrated force, taking in former ANC freedom fighters and members of the apartheid-era South African Defense Force (SADF) together into the new South African National Defense Force (SANDF). Zimbabwe’s defense forces have, meanwhile, maintained their combat capability – particularly through its experience by fighting in the 1998-2003 civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Personality rivalries aside, ANC and ZANU-PF governments have dealt with one another for more than the fourteen years since the ANC came to power in South Africa, when including the years that the Mugabe regime protected ANC activists – including Mbeki himself – during the struggle against apartheid. Favorable business dealings between members the two ruling parties in South Africa and Zimbabwe are believed to contribute to the hesitation on the part of South Africa to pressure Zimbabwe.       

 

Little effective South African political or military influence reinforces the weaknesses facing the MDC at enforcing its own claims to have won Zimbabwe’s elections. The MDC is believed to have literally no security capability of its own, apart from a few small arms maintained for the personal protection of Tsvangirai. The rest of the MDC, and Zimbabwe’s civilian population overall, are virtually unarmed (largely as a result of a brutal military campaign from 1980 to 1988 by Mugabe’s party to rid the country’s opposition Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) of its insurgent capability) and therefore without any much capability other than one of waiting for the next move on the part of ZANU-PF. 



 

ZANU-PF meanwhile appears to be preparing for an elections recount of several parliamentary seats and run-off presidential vote. Though no formal results of the country’s presidential election have been released, Zimbabwean state-run media indicate that a run-off will be necessary. Delaying the release of presidential elections results essentially means that the government can delay setting a date for a run-off vote, getting its security forces deployed and giving it additional time to more effectively rig the results.

 

Through its monopoly on security forces in the country, ZANU-PF have a vast capacity to intimidate and threaten voters in its favor. Senior members of the police, army, and Central Intelligence Organization (CIO) owe their loyalty – and fortunes – to Mugabe, and lower ranks are believed fearful for their lives should their loyalty be perceived as questionable. It’s believed ZANU-PF have already deployed so-called war veterans to the country’s rural constituencies in preparation to intimidate voters that voted MDC in the first round, and ZANU-PF are expected to deploy other security forces, including army, police, and a private militia called the Green Bombers, to beat, disappear, starve, or kill its political opponents.  



 

Little effective influence by South Africa combined with little capability on the part of the MDC to force its own political solution on ZANU-PF means the Zimbabwean president – along with the senior officers in the security forces, and members of the ruling party elite – are essentially assured of maintaining their grip on power.



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