Southern African Development Community (Sadc) leaders met in South Africa at the weekend to review the political situation in Zimbabwe ahead of Saturday’s referendum on the new constitution and their unwavering commitment to addressing our political crisis is encouraging.
The Sadc Organ on Politics, Defence and Security comprising Tanzania, Namibia and Mozambique was told by the MDC formations in the inclusive government that the integrity of harmonised elections that must follow the referendum was at stake.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has not been able to roll out mobile voter registration and there is evidence that political violence is resurfacing.
Police have also started harassing non-governmental organisations that are perceived to be working against Zanu PF.
The script is similar to that of 2008 where Sadc had to intervene after Zanu PF militants and members of the security sector joined forces to scupper a free and fair election.
The controversial presidential run-off election had been expected to pit President Robert Mugabe and MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai, but ended up being a one-man race.
Three months earlier, Zimbabwe had held what was one of the most credible elections since independence with the assistance from Sadc.
But regional leaders momentarily took their eyes off the ball and there was mayhem in this country.
Therefore, Sadc must be careful not to repeat the mistake in 2013 and allow the forces of darkness to thrash what the regional leaders have achieved in efforts to democratise Zimbabwe.
We are encouraged by statements made by South African President Jacob Zuma after the Pretoria meeting on Saturday that Sadc “will take necessary action” on the issues raised by the MDC formations concerning the forthcoming elections.
Zuma is the Sadc facilitator on negotiations to bring the long running Zimbabwe political crisis to an end.
Regional leaders now know where the problem in Zimbabwe lies because they have been seized with the political crisis in this country since 2002. Some leaders such as Botswana’s Ian Khama are not afraid to publicly state the root cause of the crisis.
This is the right time to tackle the issues that might hinder a free and fair election without fear or favour.
Mugabe must be cajoled to show leadership by ensuring that his calls for a peaceful election are respected by his own party.
He also has to rein in security sector commanders who are letting their partisan political persuasions stand in the way of professionalism.
The treatment of Tsvangirai by police who prevented him from addressing a meeting on the new constitution in Harare last week was another good advertisement of this rogue behaviour.
Time is clearly running out for Sadc to ensure a free and fair election in Zimbabwe.
However, we are encouraged by the commitments made by the leaders at the weekend to play their part when there is still time.