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SADC meditation in Zimbabwe: lost opportunity for lasting solution to the Zimbabwe crisis.

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Nearly a decade ago, a Government of National Unity (GNU) was established in Zimbabwe based on the Global Political Agreement (GPA) which was mediated by the Southern African Development Community (SADC). The unity government was a result of questionable elections which had seen President Robert Mugabe being defeated by Morgan Tsvangirai and Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) losing its parliamentary majority to the two Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) formations. Such a trajectory occurred in a country that had been ravaged by socio-economic woes for decades. The establishment of the GNU brought about short-term positive economic and political changes to the state of Zimbabwe. However, approximately seven years after its end, Zimbabwe has returned to the crisis that was meant to be addressed by the GNU. Consequently, the rationale behind this research was to establish whether the GNU in Zimbabwe was a lost opportunity upon which Zimbabwe’s crisis could have been solved. The study was informed by the Ripeness Theory, the Readiness Theory and the Elite Theory. It used a qualitative analytical approach in which data was collected through in-depth interviews, focus group discussions and documentary search. The findings of the research revealed that the SADC-mediated GNU provided an opportunity to end Zimbabwe’s crisis but was affected by the approach used in its formation and implementation. While the SADC-mediated GNU ignored certain sections of the Zimbabwe community throughout its life, the differing interests of the parties impacted negatively on the operations of the agreement. The different political parties that constituted the GNU pursued party interest often ignoring the Global Political Agreement (GPA) itself. As a result, the set objectives of political, economic and security sector reforms among others were not realised. The SADC-mediated GNU thus failed to address Zimbabwe’s crisis. However, the GNU experienced some short-term successes especially in temporarily stabilizing the economy and bringing about political tolerance. Against such a backdrop, the study argued that GNU-related negotiations should be all-involving and all-encompassing for them to be successful. The SADC bloc’s elite-driven approach in dealing with crises situations ought to change as it has not yielded positive results. Additionally, the early warning signs of the bloc have failed and require reconsideration. At the national level, the state of Zimbabwe needs to consider adopting traits of the developmental state model to solve its unending crisis. These and some of the suggested solutions in the study will go a long way in solving crisis situations that may require unity governments and/or even assisting states to deal with economic and politically-related woes within the SADC region.


Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.