The International Crisis Group warns in a new report that the political situation in Zimbabwe is becoming increasingly fragile and the country could be headed toward an environment of more repression and conflict as new elections loom larger.
In a new report called Zimbabwe’s Sanctions Standoff, the Crisis Group said the next elections could be as undemocratic and violent as the 2008 ballot which led to the Global Political Agreement for power sharing and today's unity government.
The International Crisis Group called for a more nuanced approach on sanctions imposed by the West. It said the Western position that reforms must be put in place before sanctions can be lifted has stymied exploration of innovative approaches.
It called on the West to engage Zimbabwe’s "securocrats" and the Southern African Development Community to resolve Harare's protracted political crisis.
"A bold approach to the sanctions issue is necessary to refocus efforts on the actions needed to break the political stalemate ... before elections are held that otherwise threaten to be as violent and undemocratic as the 2008 round," the ICG said.
It also urged ZANU-PF to desist from posturing and the Movement for Democratic Change, especially the formation led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, to present a coherent plan of action for the relaxation and eventual removal of sanctions.
Crisis Group Southern Africa Project Director Pius Pigou told VOA reporter Blessing Zulu that the situation in Harare is volatile and has the potential to explode.
"There is deep concern ... that the infrastructure of repression that was put in place in the 2008 period of violence has never really been dismantled," he said.
Tsvangirai MDC spokeswoman Thabitha Khumalo said her party has done all it can to lobby for sanctions to be lifted. "We have done our part as the MDC," Khumalo said. "the ball is now in the ZANU-PF's court."
Political analyst Joy Mabenge of the Institute for Democratic Alternatives for Zimbabwe argued that sanctions must remain intact until all reforms are implemented.