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Zimbabwe in Ruins: Mediation Prospects in a Conflict Not Yet Ripe for Resolution

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A confluence of conditions made the Rhodesian civil war ripe for resolution in 1979. However a 'despotic democracy' took early root in the new Zimbabwe, largely accepted by the international community in its first phase, but now condemned by many for its human rights abuses and political repression. Zimbabwe is a failed state with a massive humanitarian crisis. In the face of pressures to adopt a more robust approach, South Africa has stuck to an approach of 'quiet diplomacy' in relations with its neighbor. In March 2007, SADC states appointed South Africa's President Mbeki to mediate between parties to Zimbabwe's conflict. This article analyzes the prospects for this mediation in terms of 'ripeness' theory. It concludes that complex internal conditions and a divided international community do not yet make the crisis ripe for resolution. However, a shift from quiet diplomacy to an approach of principled mediation might assist in inducing the necessary conditions in a manner which limits continuation of the crisis.

Affiliations: 1: Labor Relations and Human Resources Unit, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, PO Box 77000, Port Elizabeth 6031, South Africa


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