A group of prominent Zimbabweans calling themselves “concerned citizens” have proposed a non-political National Transitional Authority to take over the running of the country from the Mugabe regime until “fair” elections can be held.
The group, which includes leading former supporters of Zimbabwe’s autocratic and ageing president Robert Mugabe, senior business people and former veterans of the war against minority white-rule, is calling for the establishment of an 18-member technocratic ruling council.
Amid an open political revolt by a growing number of Mr Mugabe’s former staunch supporters, the citizens’ group has warned that Zimbabwe risks descending into chaos unless a politically neutral body can be established to steer the country towards reforms and free and fair elections.
Zimbabwe is so desperately short of cash – it uses US dollars – that it recently slashed imports and has struggled to pay civil servants. The cash shortage recently sparked several episodes of social unrest and a national strike on July 6.
The signatories said they hoped their proposal would be supported by the African Union as well as the Southern African Development Community, SADC and the international community.
They also said Zimbabwe would need economic support during any transitional period leading to fresh elections.
So far neither Zanu PF nor the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) have responded to the announcement.
The group warned of “serious social unrest” and possible “collapse of the state” unless a “Transitional Authority” was created to introduce some “optimism,” and an “acceptable political and socio-economic environment” as well as reforms ahead of fresh elections.
The group says a government of national unity like the one which ran Zimbabwe from 2009 to 2013, would not solve Zimbabwe’s current crisis.
“We are of the opinion that no election in the current political climate, whether called early or in 2018, can resolve the deep structural deficits in the state; and, in any event, no election without considerable reform of the state and the creation of a level playing field, can possibly lead to a legitimate outcome,” they said.
The Platform of Concerned Citizens (PCC) is a group of like-minded Zimbabweans who have been meeting since October 2015 to discuss the crisis in our country and explore possible solutions.”
Among the 25 who signed the statement are several prominent analysts, human rights activists, academics, business people, as well as some who were part of the liberation organisations prior to independence. Many of them were or are employed or supported by non-governmental organisations.
Elinor Sisulu, a Zimbabwe activist who married into South Africa’s legendary Sisulu family signed the statement, as did Trevor Ncube, a prominent Zimbabwe journalist and publisher of the well known South African newspaper, the Mail & Guardian.
It was also supported by Judith Todd the renowned activist and writer who spent years in exile in the UK after her father, Sir Garfield Todd, a former liberal prime minister of Southern Rhodesia, was ousted by right wing Rhodesians lead by Ian Smith.
Ms Todd, who was has written about how she was subjected to a punishment rape by the Mugabe regime in the mid-1980s after she criticised the Mugabe-backed terror campaign in Matabeleland, was stripped of her citizenship by Mr Mugabe in 2003 over her activism.
The statement from the concerned citizens came 24 hours after the ruling Zanu PF party reacted with fury after a group of former Zimbabwean independence war veterans publicly criticised Mr Mugabe’s 36-year rule, accusing him of “bankrupt leadership [and] corruption” while describing him as the “rot [which] needs to be uprooted”.
The group of veterans, who spear-headed invasions of thousands of white-owned farms from 2000 and helped Mr Mugabe’s violent crackdown on opposition political parties, said they would no longer campaign for the ageing strongman.
Zanu PF won a massive if disputed victory at the last elections in 2013, and many commentators say the party is now consumed by factional fights over a successor to 92-year-old Mr Mugabe who says he will fight the next elections in 2018, and intends to stay in office until he dies.
In a statement released to the press on Saturday, the group of ‘concerned citizens’ says the present parliament and senate would continue, but it makes no mention of Mr Mugabe’s executive presidency.
Analysts have said the war veterans’ surprise intervention against their former leader has sealed the fate of the Mugabe regime.
“This is the beginning of the end for Mugabe,” said Takavafira Zhou, a political scientist from Masvingo State University.
“The war veterans have realised Mugabe is sinking and with him his regime. They don’t want to sink with the ship,” said Mr Zhou.