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Zimbabwe - What are the Options?

With all the political developments, talk of sanctions and calls for a coalition government – what's next for Zimbabwe?

VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua put that question to reporter Delia Robertson, in the VOA Johannesburg bureau, who's following developments in neighboring Zimbabwe. She considers the options for a political settlement, despite last week's disputed presidential run-off election.

"The possibilities are there. It's not going to be an easy ride, though. It's going to be very complicated because you have a situation where Mr. Mugabe will insist that he be publicly recognized as president of Zimbabwe by the (opposition party) MDC. And the MDC's bottom line position at this point is that any negotiations must take place on the basis of the outcome of the election on March 29th, in which they won the general election for Parliament…but in which Morgan Tsvangirai also got the majority of the votes in the presidential race. So, it is going to be very complicated," she says.

Robertson says a key element to settling the crisis could lie in the unapproved constitution. "I do think that one of the things that the SADC mediator, President Thabo Mbeki, would like to see is the adoption of the constitution that was agreed to in talks between the (ruling) ZANU-PF and the MDC last year. It's a very good document and it would form the basis for negotiations in that I think if it [were] adopted and fairly administered then it would create the climate and the environment to move forward."

But it wouldn't be easy. "There are a number of stumbling blocks in that even if it is adopted. How would it be policed? Because clearly the MDC would find a great deal of difficulty in accepting the law enforcement and security agencies of Mr. Mugabe's government to enforce this constitution, given what has happened since March," she says.

What's more, what incentive would there be for President Mugabe to go along with a new constitution? "The incentive, I think, is going to largely depend on what the outcome is of this meeting of the African Union in Sharm el Sheik. And while I think that what is said in public might not be a full indicator of what is being said in private. If Mr. Mugabe gets a message that he must cooperate with any sort of talks and facilitation, he might be willing to do so. However, we do need to remember that in the past he has appeared to cooperate, and in fact his negotiators last year cooperated with the facilitation run by Mr. Mbeki, but ultimately, they didn't adopt that constitution, which would have been key, I think, to what happened this year. And secondly, once it was clear that he had potentially lost the election in March, any agreements went out the window in terms of electoral laws and things like that. They were just simply ignored or changed by decree," she says.

Might he want to end his political career more as a statesman than being called a dictator? "I think that would play a role. There's also a growing international clamor for him to be charged at the International Criminal Court. That could be something that could be held out….. If you cooperate and agree to a dignified exit, well then, perhaps that possibility could be set aside.