Zimbabwe’s political stalemate will sits atop Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s agenda in South Africa later this week, where she is set to meet with South African President Jacob Zuma. The situation in Zimbabwe in the run up to that meeting remains precarious, as politically motivated arrests (Amnesty International reports today on the arrest of four student leaders, HT to reader Eliane D.) and corruption continues despite recent victories for a free press inside the country.
Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai met President Zuma in Johannesburg earlier this week. During the meeting, Tsvangirai reportedly discussed Mugabe’s continued intransigence and unwillingness to implement key provisions of last year’s Global Political Agreement, or GPA, and Zuma promised to follow up with President Mugabe directly. Zuma thus far has been less interested than his predecessor Thabo Mbeki – who, through South African leadership in Southern African Development Community, or SADC, was instrumental in the drafting and signing of the Global Political Agreement last year – in engaging with the situation in Harare. And while it is disappointing that Zuma has rejected calls from MDC officials to convene a formal SADC inquiry into the current Zimbabwe situation, his recent attention and follow up is a useful step.
Amid the corruption that abounds inside the government of national unity, however, have been a series of steps forward. As my colleague Katherine noted last week, the government has officially allowed BBC and CNN’s to report from inside the country. This is a promising step for a country with a brutal history of squashing press freedoms, but it comes at the same time as a spate of arrests underscore the Zimbabwe’s political repression.
In recent weeks, so many MDC politicians have been arrested that the party is at risk of losing its majority in Parliament. In one bizarre incident, Thamsanqa Mahlangu, the deputy youth minister, was arrested under allegations that he had stolen the cell phone of a ZANU-PF official, who had left the device on a table during the lunch break of a conference in Harare. Police apprehended another MDC official for several hours this week for playing an “anti Mugabe” song. Reports note that despite charges being dropped for both men, “Eight MDC MPs, seven members of the house of assembly and a senator, are facing charges carrying potential prison sentences of more than six months which would mean suspension from parliament.”
Furthermore, confusion abounds after the reported death of 86 year-old Zimbabwean Vice President Joseph Msika, a close ally of Mugabe. Reports indicated that officials within the government attempted to withhold news of his death from the media, and while the reasons behind the purposeful confusion remain unknown, it’s not far fetched to assume political infighting of some sort lies at the heart of the matter.