Some of the usual suspects in the so-called independent media, civil society and political opposition have lauded his “diplomatic offensive”, which has taken him to Zambia, Swaziland and Botswana, among other places. But close scrutiny of the democratic credentials of the leaders Tsvangirai has been lobbying casts doubt about the effectiveness of this regional tour.
Zambian President Rupiah Banda and chairperson of the Sadc Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation is presently locked in the fight of his political career, as he battles opposition forces ahead of what is likely to be a close presidential election, which is due by September.
The democratic tactics Banda has employed against his main opposition challenger Michael Sata are to intimidate and discredit his political rival. Zambia’s security officials have detained Sata, seized a number of his properties and charged him with making a fraudulent transaction through the Finance Bank, despite lacking credible evidence.
Moreover there is lingering suspicion in Zambia that the 2008 presidential election was rigged by the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) to ensure Banda’s victory.
Even in southern Africa’s so-called jewel of democratic governance — Botswana — the trends are not promising.
2011 marks 45 years of power for President Ian Khama’s BDP party. So dominant has the BDP been it ranks as Southern Africa’s foremost single-party political system. Perniciously, since Khama, a former military general, took over the presidency in 2008 he has increasingly militarised the Botswana state. A number of key state appointments have gone to retired military personnel. The vice presidency, along with the defence, justice and wildlife ministries have all gone to retired military officers.
The heads of the Central Transport Organisation (CTO) and Prison Services, and the general manager of Botswana Television (BTV) are former military officers. Khama’s cabal of closest advisors also contains figures with a military background. Indeed one of the reasons some BDP members defected to form a new opposition BMD party in 2010 is disgruntlement with Khama’s commandist style of governance, which extols discipline above anything else.
King Mswati III is Africa’s last remaining absolute monarchy. The royal family controls a significant portion of the economy through holdings in various private companies. Press freedom faces curtailments, opposition parties are banned and the judiciary is subject to royal interference.
Significantly, liberation parties continue to foster closer ties through regional organisations such as Sadc and former liberation movement summits. Namibia’s Swapo party, which only last week denounced agents of regime change in southern Africa, will host South Africa’s ANC, Mozambique’s Frelimo, Tanzania’s CCM and Zanu PF at a conference for former regional liberation movements in July 2011.
There are differences between Frelimo, CCM, Swapo, ANC, Zanu PF and Angola’s Mpla but the relationships between them, forged over decades, have tended to outweigh whatever reservations they may have about each other’s respective domestic political conduct.
The MDC’s record in the power-sharing government is one of a party that has lost touch with the popular grievances it once championed. Since 2009 they have been busy lapping up the material and financial perks of being in government and engaging in all manner of corruption: farms, cars, businesses, houses and financial kickbacks comprise some MDC members’ ill-gotten wealth.
Moreover the MDC has also been implicated in some of the violence that has gripped Zimbabwe of late. Evidence of this can be obtained from the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee’s (Jomic) inter-party committees, which are tackling political violence in Zimbabwe from district to cell level.
For those who have treated the MDC critically since 1999, the party’s resort to violence would come as no surprise because it has been plagued by internal violence between rivals since that time.