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Coordinator's Note: Is South Africa best placed to spearhead Zim mediation?

Zimbabwe is on the tip of an iceberg with a deteriorating economy, abuse of human rights and

the shrinking of democratic space as the ruling ZANU PF government seems determined to entrench a one-party state system. As this is happening, the opposition and civil society have been calling for outside help, particularly the regional body SADC to take an initiative in bringing sanity to Zimbabwe.

It's barely a few days after the 25 October SADC initiated Day of anti-sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by the west, indications are clear that SADC shares a different approach as to what is the root cause of Zimbabwe's problems. The west, on the other hand, is adamant that Zimbabwe's woes are self-made and a result of corruption, bad governance, abuse of human rights and the unwillingness to undertake political and economic reforms.

This stalemate is not helping as the people of Zimbabwe bears the brunt of a decaying economic and a high cost of living that has forced a majority to skip the border to neighbouring countries for greener pastures. ZANU PF has clearly shown an unwillingness to reform, they are making all efforts to thwart any dissenting voices by introducing draconian pieces of legislation, namely the Patriotic Bill and the Cybersecurity bill which have no place in modern-day democracy.

As this is happening, calls have been getting louder for SADC to take an initiative in solving Zimbabwe's jigsaw political puzzle. In 2008, South Africa through president Mbeki organised SADC to step in Zimbabwe and initiated a dialogue process that resulted in a Government of National Unity with both the ruling ZANU PF party and the two opposition MDC parties.

Despite the end of the official SADC brokered and accompanied political dialogue process in 2013, there clearly remains a need for a re-engineered process facilitation that allows refocusing on the Zimbabwe crisis from both the national and the regional context. Are the loud calls by South Africa that there is a political crisis in Zimbabwe a window of opportunity to push the region for solutions in Zimbabwe?

However, efforts towards facilitation have seen the South African president Cyril Ramaphosa dispatching an envoy and the African National Congress delegations to Zimbabwe to meet the Zimbabwe government and other stakeholders on the deteriorating human rights environment and an economic collapse that has potential to cause a regional humanitarian crisis.

The government instead blocked the ANC delegation from meeting other stakeholders, namely, the opposition political parties and civil society. The ANC, however, insists on meeting other stakeholders and have already indicated they will make another trip to Zimbabwe.

In this edition, we tackle the issue of mediation, particularly looking at the role of South Africa and its influence within the SADC community in resolving the Zimbabwean "crisis". Notwithstanding the issues of sovereignty and the reality that South Africa is facing its own problems, the Zimbabwe Briefing delves deep in dissecting these issues and we hope you will enjoy reading this edition.

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