William M. Gumede at PostGlobal

William M. Gumede

South Africa

William M. Gumede is a former deputy editor of The Sowetan, Johannesburg. He is the author of the bestselling Thabo Mbeki and the Battle for the Soul of the ANC. His new book, The Democracy Gap: Africaʼs Wasted Years, will be released in the U.S. in May, 2009. Close.

William M. Gumede

South Africa

William M. Gumede is a former deputy editor of The Sowetan, Johannesburg. more »

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A Way Forward for Zimbabwe

The Current Discussion:Zimbabwe's chaos has brought about unprecedented cooperation in the UN, with even China and Russia switching sides to condemn Mugabe's government. So -- what should this united UN DO to force change?

All countries must reject the sham election in which Robert Mugabe stood as the only candidate, after the withdrawal of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai because of the Mugabe’s regime’s terror campaign against the country’s citizens.

Mugabe refused to cancel the poll, hoping to use its expected one-sided result in his favor as a bargaining chip in future negotiations on his exit. Mugabe must now be given a 24-hour ultimatum to immediately stand down, and accept a proposal for a transitional government of national unity, which should be based on the results of the 29 March 2007 presidential elections that Tsvangirai won. Key members of Zanu-PF, excluding Mugabe, should be included in the transitional government.

Africans must assemble a peacekeeping force through the African Union, from member countries that have the ability to do so, to keep the peace in Zimbabwe during that transitional period. The West and developing countries, such as India and China, could provide material, financial and logistical support for the African peacekeepers. The US and the UK must give a transitional Zimbabwean government the funds they promised at independence for land reform, but did not. Mugabe has used this as a red flag to rally African countries, which all have similar experiences of former colonial powers renegating on promises made at independence.

The good thing is that for the first time, Mugabe is isolated not only in the West but also in Africa, which he has used as a rallying base in the past. The opposition MDC, neighboring African countries, the West and the developing countries with influence in Harare, such as China, must act quickly – in the next few hours – to drive a wedge between Mugabe and his dozen close allies in the military and security forces, who support martial rule, and the three other clearly separate factions of the Zanu-PF junta, who are keen to break away. Sadly, one of the mistakes of Tsvangirai and the MDC have made so far was to not actively woo the three Zanu-PF factions current at loggerheads with Mugabe and his inner clique.

Secondly, the police, army and security officers, from mid-level downwards, must now be specifically targeted to switch. Because of the country’s financial crunch – due to Mugabe’s monumental kleptocracy – the Zimbabwean junta has struggled to pay their salaries at all, let alone on time, leaving them ripe to be persuaded to switch camps. Provided Mugabe and members of his junta relinquish power, it’s worth considering the idea of selective immunity for cooperative members of the Mugabe junta.

If Mugabe and his junta still refuse to cooperate and stand down, then they should be forced out through the United Nations. This should include initially applying smart sanctions against the regime. South Africa, for example, must freeze all properties, financial and business assets of Mugabe and his cronies – who have unsurprisingly invested most of their money in South Africa. The US, Europe, Middle East and Asian countries where Mugabe and his cronies have also sizeable assets must also do the same. Companies doing business with the regime should stop doing so. There must be international travel bans on all the key Zanu-PF officials. A case must be prepared to prosecute Mugabe for crimes against humanity at the International Court in The Hague.

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