HomeEditorial CommentComment: Mugabe Wriggles off the Hook

Comment: Mugabe Wriggles off the Hook

SADC leaders cowardly ducked the Zimbabwe issue at their summit in Kinshasa, DRC, on Monday and Tuesday, leaving President Robert Mugabe emboldened in his defiant refusal to implement remaining GPA provisions and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai gutted.

The result of this outcome is predictable. Given the delicately balanced power relations in the inclusive government, the internal power struggles will continue. The battle is going to get nastier before it reaches denouement.
Tsvangirai and his party had vigorously campaigned for Sadc leaders to tackle the outstanding GPA issues in Kinshasa to clear the deck and allow government to focus on economic reconstruction. The MDC’s feverish campaign was brave but hopeless – it had no realistic chance of succeeding largely because Mugabe had behind the scenes lobbied effectively to expunge Zimbabwe out of the agenda. Most of the Sadc leaders were by alliance or default on his side.
This enabled him to dodge scrutiny, although it did not solve anything at the end of the day. He was just buying time and postponing problems. The issues won’t go away until they are confronted and settled. The sooner Mugabe realises this, the better. Mugabe and Tsvangirai need to seriously engage and resolve matters on their own without being unduly influenced by demagogues around them who are mainly driven by self political interest and personal agendas. Their fight at Sadc summits and other fora have become embarrassingly messy encounters. The wear and tear on themselves and other stakeholders is now evident.  
The view of many delegates to the summit, including journalists, was that the long-drawn-out Zimbabwean saga was increasingly becoming a shaggy dog story. Zimbabwean leaders should not squander the current opportunity to resolve the situation because the consequences of failure may be ghastly. Besides, regional and international goodwill will sooner rather than later run out. 
The Kinshasa summit was supposed to be a watershed but fizzled out into a damp squib. Delegates and diplomats on the sidelines of the summit had raised the alarm three days before the summit, saying Zimbabwe had been knocked off the agenda. Mugabe, working with his allies on the premise of regional solidarity, threw the issue out the window days before.
By the time the summit started it was clear Mugabe had succeeded in wriggling off the hook. The MDC was left with a mountain to climb and in its bid to ascend it crashed. Belated attempts by the party to push for an extraordinary summit on Zimbabwe – a daring effort – were not going to succeed because Sadc leaders had taken a position to pass on the issues to the troika. This was a plausible excuse to avoid dealing with Zimbabwe formally.
If it were not for South African President Jacob Zuma’s approach, Zimbabwe would have simply disappeared off the Sadc radar. Zuma’s role was crucial. Apart from ensuring the success of the summit through logistical support for the DRC, Zuma kept the Zimbabwe issue alive in his fairly forthright report to regional leaders which ensured Sadc remained interested in the issue. In his speech, Zuma not only mentioned Zimbabwe, but also said remaining “obstacles” must be removed.
Before his departure on Tuesday evening, Zuma gave a press briefing in his Guest House at the African Union City  where he told journalists that issues on Zimbabwe were raised “frankly” with Mugabe. He said the Sadc troika would review the six months of the inclusive government and address outstanding issues. This would in a way keep the matter under regional scrutiny.
Mugabe and Tsvangirai’s camps were heavily armed for the Kinshasa battle. They had roped in civil society groups on both sides to reinforce their positions. They had reports and dossiers to buttress their arguments. All together, Zimbabwe had at least 45 delegates on its official list. South Africa, which has got bigger resources, had much fewer delegates.  
Even if Mugabe managed to get Zimbabwe out of the official agenda, the issue, as exhausting as it has become, still dominated debate in formal and informal meetings.  
Mugabe, using the advantage of incumbency as head of state and access to regional leaders, smuggled his sanctions “outstanding issue” onto the Sadc communiqué, while the MDC, undermined by lack of an equal opportunity to present its case, had all its demands shunted aside and forwarded to the troika.
Mugabe also managed to influence who was going to be on the Sadc organ of defence, politics and security by blocking Botswana from coming in. With the AU chairmanship going to Malawi next year, Mugabe clearly seems to have put his ducks in a row. The MDC needs to go back and reorganise after being left scattered and in disarray in Kinshasa.
Give all this, it is difficult to see how the Sadc troika – comprising Kabila, President Hifikepunye Pohamba of Namibia and Zuma or the Sadc organ of defence, politics and security, which has Mozambican President Armando Guebuza, Rupiah Banda of Zambia and Swazi King Mswati, would resolve the Zimbabwe situation when they allowed Mugabe wriggle out.

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