Guarded Optimism in Zimbabwe and South Africa

By Nontando Hadebe 02-23-2009

It's been just over two weeks into the new transitional government in Zimbabwe. There is guarded optimism and most people have adopted a 'wait and see' approach. There are some worrying aspects such as continued detention of activists and opposition members, including a recent arrest of an opposition member of parliament and the surprise addition of five extra members by Mugabe. In a recent meeting the opposition prime minister requested regional leaders to pressure Mugabe on the issue of detention of opposition members. It's a confusing situation but there is a determination to confront these issues and get on with rebuilding the country.

The opposition has ministries that are at the centre of Zimbabwe's crisis such as health, finance, and education. This provides an opportunity to demonstrate to citizens their capacity to govern; the major limiting factor is finance. Donors are hesitant to invest money without first seeing signs of genuine power sharing and progress. There is much at stake, and 'power politics' must surely give way to 'people first politics'! Zimbabwe needs this shift in politics in order to move forward.

Meanwhile, in South Africa preparations for elections are underway and gaining momentum. The election date has been set for April 22. A positive development taken from the U.S. presidential elections is public debate among political parties on different issues. It's great to watch political parties battling key issues out on TV. Hopefully this trend will trickle through to the rest of the continent. Political parties have signed a code of conduct that will at least ensure that there will be no violence between supporters of different parties. There are some leadership issues that plague some of the key political parties.

Despite these challenges, there is optimism that the elections will be successful

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