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These days there is little cause for optimism in Zimbabwe. Inflation is running at 9,000 per cent and over 80 per cent of the 12 million people live below the poverty line. In the words of an opposition spokesman, Zimbabwe is now a country where everything is in short supply except misery. However, a recent presentation by international crisis group (ICG) president, Gareth Evans to the Royal Commonwealth Society shows all is not lost for Zimbabwe. But what is the basis of this optimism. Sydney Masamvu, a senior analyst of the ICG explains.

“I think you have to view it from two ends: besides the doom and gloom with the issue of political paralysis, internal political paralysis and the deteriorating economic conditions, one should also look at the SADC (Southern African Development Community) mediation process. This should involve looking at the effects of the paralysis or the economic implosion. Can this actually accelerate the need for political change, as it were?…

” Masamvu felt, however, that Zimbabwe cannot hold free and fair elections under the present political climate. “Nothing of substance has occurred that would make one feel Zimbabwe can have what you call a credible election in March 2008. No wonder why we are always calling for the leveraging of the SADC liberation process to ensure that the conditions which will guarantee a free and fair elections are on the ground…” Masamvu said the March 2008 date for the general election must not be cast in stone. He said there should be some form of flexibility to ensure that whenever the election is held, it will be a credible election that will yield a credible and a legitimate government.

On the issue of land resolution Masamvu said: “ you know we have talked to members of the British government establishment who are the key players in this land reform process. They’ve really stated that they are ready to be the key players in any trust fund to meet their obligations as outlined in the Lancaster conference. But this will only happen when there is a legitimate and an undisputed government in Zimbabwe….”