SOUTH African President Jacob Zuma who is expected in Harare on Thursday will have an uphill task to nudge leaders of the inclusive government to fully implement the global political agreement (GPA) they signed last September as differences on the outstanding issues of the pact have widened.
Zuma, who is the current chairperson of Sadc which facilitated the GPA between President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his deputy Arthur Mutambara, wants the full consummation of the deal before his term as head of the regional bloc ends at its annual summit in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) next month. DRC President Joseph Kabila will takeover the Sadc chairmanship.
Relations in the unity government have been tense after Zanu PF’s politburo last Thursday met in the capital and declared that the party would not be pushed into making further concessions in the implementation of the GPA.
This was in apparent reference to the outstanding issues of the deal, among them, the rehiring of central bank governor Gideon Gono, the appointment of Attorney-General Johannes Tomana and provincial governors and the refusal by Mugabe to swear in MDC-T treasurer Roy Bennett as deputy Agriculture minister.
Zanu PF said the only sticking issues were the failure by the two MDC formations to call for the lifting of sanctions and an end to “pirate” radio broadcasts.
A meeting on Monday between Mugabe and Tsvangirai to try and iron out the differences was inconclusive amid reports of deepening tension.
It is against this background that Zuma will visit Zimbabwe next week amid calls by the United States for South Africa to use its economic leverage to force Mugabe to play ball.
Besides the US, Britain and its Western allies, some Sadc member states like Botswana and Angola also want an immediate resolution to the sticking points before the regional bloc’s summit next month, which is expected to review the GPA.
US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton —— during her 11-day tour of Africa a fortnight ago —— met Zuma in South Africa and impressed upon him the need to take a strong position on Zimbabwe and ensure that the GPA is fully implemented.
The meeting took place a few days after Tsvangirai had met with Zuma in South Africa where the premier lamented Mugabe and Zanu PF’s unwillingness to resolve the outstanding issues.
Zuma made a commitment that he would consult regional leaders before meeting Mugabe in Harare next week.
Political analysts this week said the leverage that South Africa enjoys over Zimbabwe was often overstated.
The leverage, the analysts argued, considered South Africa’s economic strength over Zimbabwe, but fails to take cognisance of the dynamics of the relationships between the key players within the historical context.
“While South Africa may be a big country with great might over its counterparts, from an historical perspective the South African government is younger than its continental peers,” Alex Magaisa, a Zimbabwean lawyer based in the UK, said. “There is more that unites South African leaders and their African counterparts than those things that divide them. They have more in common than is often admitted.”
Magaisa said it was unthinkable that South Africa can take a tough stance on Zimbabwe to force the full implementation of the GPA.
“South Africa knows that it has far more challenging circumstances than its neighbours —— especially when it comes to the concerns of its black population which remains impoverished and on the margins of the economy,” he argued. “South African leaders know that their people are impatient and want some change.
They cannot adopt an approach that upsets their people by remaining conservative but simultaneously, they cannot upset the current system too abruptly lest they go the Zimbabwe way.
At heart, South African leaders know that despite their economic power, they are still very much an African country, with the similar challenges, problems and concerns and it will be a long time before they can have the guts and standing to rise and chide their counterparts.”
Political scientist Michael Mhike said the other problem was that the US and its Western allies sometimes appear as Big Brothers giving instructions to South Africa.
“No self-respecting country, let alone the US itself, will take instructions from anyone. In fact the biggest mistake is for the US and others to grandstand and say they have told this and that to South Africa and African countries because frankly, that is only going to meet with resistance from those people,” Mhike said. “They will not want to be seen as puppets of the US. Even if South Africa wanted to take a tough stance, they would find it humiliating when such ‘instructions’ are shared publicly.”
The analysts said Zuma would have a Herculean task to break the impasse between the principals of the GPA on the outstanding issues, especially if Mugabe insists that he will make further concessions only after sanctions are lifted and pirate radios stop broadcasting.
The issue of sanctions, the analysts said, was problematic given the assumption that the MDC formations had the capacity to have them lifted.
“The cold fact is that they (MDCs) don’t have that capacity. Even if it is= said that the MDC may have called for some form of sanctions, they can scream and howl for their removal but they have absolutely no power to lift the sanctions,” Magaisa said. In any event, the removal of sanctions such as those under the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act in the US has to follow a fairly complicated process, influenced by US politics more than by the MDC. This will take time.”
He said those under targeted sanctions have to first demonstrate to their protagonists that they have reformed to have them lifted.
“It’s a matter that requires tact, diplomacy and ultimately negotiations not the exacerbation of hostility and hate speech between the parties,” Magaisa added.
In a statement reacting to Zanu PF’s new position on the outstanding issues, the MDC-T said it had done all it could to have the sanctions lifted and adamantly denied responsibility for the punitive measures on the country.
The MDC-T said Zanu PF was to blame for the sanctions.
Â “The world is clear that the so-called sanctions are a result of Zanu PF’s past sins of omission and commission,” the party said. “The onus is on Zanu PF itself to morph into a civilised political party that does not believe in the primitive and feudal coercive politics of machetes and knobkerries. The MDC cannot be held accountable for Zanu PF’s political misfortunes and the barbaric image it has carved out for itself in the eyes of Africa and the world.”
The MDC-T accused Zanu PF of violating the GPA by standing in the way of constitutional reform and by delaying media reforms while maintaining a stranglehold on the public media.
It accused Zanu-PF of persecuting political opponents, reneging on agreed reform processes and refusing to swear-in officials legally seconded to the inclusive government by their political parties.