The results of the 2008 Presidential elections in Zimbabwe were contested. The dispute that ensued had national and international dimensions; at the national level there was contestation of political power as ‘an internal domestic affair’ and yet, internationally the circumstances obtaining during and after the contested elections required international attention (if not intervention). The stated reason for international intervention was that the subject matter of the dispute was a subject matter of international concern. Resultantly, the Southern African Development Community intervened and facilitated a negotiated outcome that lead to the formation of a coalition government. What lessons are there in how regional organizations can play a critical role in resolving conflict and averting escalation of a crisis?
The overarching objective of the coalition government was to reconcile the feuding parties and establish an environment for free and fair elections. Put differently, the political actors in Zimbabwe ‘found each other’ in the Global Political Agreement (GPA) and agreed on a roadmap to reaffirm multi-party democracy. The process to achieve that outcome was anchored on the assumption that a new constitution would establish a new national ethos for free and fair elections. To this end, a Constitution Select Committee was mandated to consult Zimbabweans, prepare a draft and submit same to a referendum. The process is now nearing completion (three years down the line) against the envisaged eighteen months provided for in the GPA. The process has not only been protracted but also acrimonious. This notwithstanding, the political parties in the GPA have now agreed on a draft text that they are urging their supporters to vote for in the impending referendum. It is anticipated that harmonized Parliamentary and Presidential elections will be held sometime this year. What are the lessons to be drawn in how negotiated political settlements can encourage constitutionalism.