Zimbabwe’s neighbors are increasingly concerned about that nation’s post-election crisis. They banded together to block a shipment of Chinese arms to President Robert Mugabe’s government, that could have been used to oppress his political opponents. More regional pressure will be key to resolving the crisis and allowing Zimbabwe to deal with the serious social and economic challenges it faces.
Nearly a month has passed since an election in which parliamentary results, an exit poll and independently tabulated presidential returns all indicate that the opposition defeated Mr. Mugabe’s party, threatening his twenty-eight year hold on power. Election officials have yet to release official presidential election returns and a recount of some parliamentary elections was launched, raising fears of ballot manipulation by the government.
A shipment of rockets, mortars, small arms and ammunition bound for Zimbabwe from China further raised regional concerns. Labor, church and human rights activists, charging Mr. Mugabe’s supporters have been beating and intimidating the opposition as the stalemate drags on, rallied against allowing the freighter to land its cargo in ports in any of Zimbabwe’s neighbors. That stand was strengthened when Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa, who also heads the South African Development Community, called for regional action against the arms shipment and for China to refrain from shipping weapons to Zimbabwe while the situation is so volatile.
Mr. Mugabe’s fellow leaders in SADC can help resolve the crisis. Their involvement, and particularly that of South Africa, at this pivotal time for the region is essential.