SOUTH African president Thabo Mbeki’s mediation efforts in the Zimbabwe crisis to produce an undisputed presidential result have failed, with some political analysts suggesting that Sadc should appoint another facilitator to broker an inclusive government pact between President Robert Mugabe and the MDC’s Morgan Tsvangirai.
The analysts said Mbeki’s failure to rein in the Mugabe regime after the March 29 harmonised elections to stop violence against MDC supporters led to the disputed outcome of last Friday’s run-off – the very thing his mediation set out to avoid in Dar-es-Salaam last year.
Tsvangirai pulled out of the run-off citing the violence against his members, but the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission went ahead with the fiction that Mugabe “won” after garnering 85% of the votes.
Mbeki was mandated by Sadc in March last year to find a lasting solution to Zimbabwe’s deepening crisis, but the MDC accuses the South African leader of being too close to Mugabe. Chief among his mediation’s mandate was to arrive at an agreement that would ensure election results would not be disputed by contesting parties. This required achieving consensus on electoral procedures and the role of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.
Developments on the mediation, analysts observed, have proved that Mbeki was not equal to the task and needed assistance from fellow African leaders to deal with the crisis.
Since the talks between the MDC and Zanu PF commenced, Mbeki managed to push the two bitter rivals into co-sponsoring Constitutional Amendment Number 18 that brought harmonised elections.
Mbeki was mandated to ensure that the country’s elections would be in line with Sadc and African Union (AU)) guidelines governing the conduct of democratic elections. He influenced minor amendments to the Electoral Act, the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the Public Order and Security Act and the Broadcasting Services of Zimbabwe Act.
Despite these amendments, the texture of the country’s political landscape did not change.
Mugabe rescinded a commitment in the Electoral Act to keep police officers out of polling stations and unilaterally set the date of the March election.
Both Zanu PF and the MDC have hotly disputed the outcome of the March 29 elections and the June 27 run-off.
Allegations of vote-rigging, violence, intimidation and the skewed political landscape have been cited as some of the flaws that characterised the two elections.
Tsvangirai says Mugabe’s subsequent inauguration, as head of state on Sunday was a non-event.
Macdonald Lewanika of the Crisis-In-Zimbabwe Coalition said his organisation and civic society were disappointed by the failure of the Mbeki initiative saying the South African president needed assistance from “someone who is knowledgeable about the situation in Zimbabwe”.
“At the moment, Mbeki’s hands are tainted with failure,” Lewanika said. “As civic society, we are disappointed at the manner in which he handled the Zimbabwean issue and there is a clear need for someone to assist him. He needs a person who is amenable to the Zimbabwean crisis to help him.”
He added that there was need for Mbeki to first accept that Zimbabwe was in a crisis that needed intervention.
Mbeki, Lewanika said, would then be required to seek assistance from a head of state currently serving or one retired.
“He (Mbeki) has been accused of lacking impartiality. He needs to open up the mediation platform to someone who is more able, currently serving or retired. That job of mediating has become too big for him,” he said.
When Tsvangirai announced his withdrawal from the run-off on June 22, Zambian president Levy Mwanawasa insinuated that Mbeki was not an honest broker in the Zimbabwe crisis.
“We cannot say the mediation effort has succeeded yet,” he said: “President Thabo Mbeki has not been open in his mediation. Even to me as the chairman of Sadc. I have tried to contact him on the matter but he has been elusive.”
Mwanawasa claimed that Mbeki was not even updating him on the progress of the talks between the MDC and Zanu PF.
“Three consecutive calls have yielded nothing. He is said to be in continuous meetings and promises that he will call me back have yielded nothing. He has not been open on the situation in Zimbabwe,” Mwanawasa added.
Tsvangirai told journalists that Mbeki’s mediation had failed to bring about an uncontested result.
“As the MDC, we have made our position clear on the Mbeki mediation,” Tsvangirai said. “We are convinced the mediation has failed and thus efforts to bring about an election result that is uncontested have also suffered the same fate. No one in his right frame of mind can describe the efforts as fruitful.”
But National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) chairperson Lovemore Madhuku said it would be premature for any analyst to comment on the extent of the Mbeki initiative because it was secretive and only privy to Zanu PF and the MDC.
“People do not know much about the Mbeki initiative save for statements from politicians on both sides of the political divide,” Madhuku said. “We have only been told the mediation continues. It would be misleading to comment on statements made by politicians at the moment up until we see the direction that these talks are taking.”
He said what was worrying was that despite Tsvangirai’s claiming that Mbeki’s mediation had collapsed, the MDC continued to meet the South African leader and his envoys.
Madhuku described this as double standards by the MDC.
“They can not have their cake and eat it at the same time. One time, they condemn the mediation and on the other they continue to engage Mbeki and his people, it’s not fair at all,” said Madhuku.
He added that although Mugabe was regarded as an illegitimate president, it was incumbent upon the MDC to realise that they needed to exert pressure on him to accept reforms that would guarantee Zimbabwe a better future.
“Mugabe is there for now. Illegitimate or legitimate, he is the de facto president of Zimbabwe. The MDC has to partner civic society and the international community in ensuring that pressure is mounted on Mugabe to yield to constitutional reforms that will guarantee Zimbabweans a future that is better for them and one they deserve,” Madhuku said.
Mugabe thinks Mbeki has done a lot to unlock the country’s logjam and this week described the South African president as a “true African statesman”.
“We want to commend and thank South African president Thabo Mbeki for displaying true African statesmanship at a time when the whole world is putting pressure on him to act on Zimbabwe,” he said during his inauguration.
By Nkululeko Sibanda