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The term "court fight" is taking on new meaning in Zimbabwe, where some forces in Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party are looking to win from judges what they lost at the ballot box in the last parliamentary elections in March 2008.
In what appears to be a campaign of politically motivated legal actions, several lawmakers representing the Movement for Democratic Change, the MDC, have been charged in recent months with a variety of crimes that require them to leave office if they are convicted. The accusations range from the serious to the silly, with Finance Minister Tendai Biti facing a charge of treason, to MP Stewart Garadhi's arrest for playing a song allegedly unkind to Mugabe.
Over 20 leading MDC officials and dozens of civil society members have been dragged into court since the inception of the inclusive government. Four MDC lawmakers have been convicted of crimes that will cost them their parliamentary seats if the appeals process does not overturn their sentences. Further convictions of MDC members of parliament could threaten the party’s modest legislative majority, consolidating Mugabe's power and allowing him to rule unilaterally again.
When the Global Political Agreement, or GPA, was signed in September 2008 to solve Zimbabwe's long political crisis by forming a transitional government, Zimbabwe’s future was supposed to be different. There was new hope that by putting politics aside and working together, the nation's leaders could concentrate on restoring the nation's ruined economy, reopening schools and rebuilding the shattered health care system. While there has been some progress on the social and economic fronts, within some elements of Mugabe’s party the politics of revenge and intimidation persists and abuses of power continue.
Under the cloak of change represented by the transitional government, Mugabe has appealed to the international community for financial support and development aid. ZANU-PF elements continue to violate both the letter and the spirit of the GPA on many fronts. For its part, United States reengagement and foreign assistance to Zimbabwe continue to depend on progress toward genuine democratic reform by the transitional government. However, urgently needed U.S. humanitarian assistance - for the people of Zimbabwe - continues to flow.