This meeting should be put in the context of the Sadc troika meeting held recently in the Zambian resort town of Livingstone, Zambia, at which the heads of state there present came out of their shells and read the Riot Act at Robert Mugabe for the danger he was exposing to the region by his intransigence.
The North African revolutions were at their height and had taken their toll on Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak, the former presidents of Tunisia and Egypt respectively.
There was the real danger that the North African revolts could be exported down south. Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Lesotho and Zambia were in the danger of being affected by popular revolts.
It would seem that danger has passed now. In Zimbabwe, the police had moved fast to pick up possible leaders of such popular revolts.
Job Sikhala was picked up and tortured on trumped-up charges while Munyaradzi Gwisai met a similar fate. He and a handful were charged with treason but the charge was later downgraded.
The diplomatic fallout that resulted from the Livingstone debacle seems to be water under the bridge now. The main protagonist in that debacle, Jonathan Moyo, seems to be enjoying another of his legendary nine lives judging from the fact that he is back spewing his usual vitriol in the public press.
So the scenario has changed, southern African despots have heaved their sigh of relief. Zanu PF seems to have got a new lease of life.
It now thinks that it can win the election that it wants before the end of the year. News on radio and TV over the weekend said Mugabe would win 60% of the vote without a sweat. The news said this was what surveys by civil society and the ZBC itself had shown. Tsvangirai, according to the survey would win 40% of the vote.
This is stranger than fiction, but that is another story.
It is with this newfound confidence that Zanu PF has begun once again to be defiant towards Sadc. Whereas Sadc has said there would not be elections before an appropriate roadmap, Mugabe bulldozed his party politburo into saying that elections would be held this year. Reports suggest that Patrick Chinamasa, one of the Zanu PF negotiators to the GPA is in hot soup for telling the nation — and the world — that elections were not possible this year.
So on May 20 we are likely to see a scenario in which Sadc will soften its stance on Mugabe. He attended the inauguration of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni last week where he met eight other African heads of state.
Obviously he threw in a word or two to these heads about his problems and how they could help. We are likely to see in the days before May 20 a lot of diplomatic manoeuvres to divide Sadc. That might well succeed, in such a way that Mugabe would be let off the hook again.
Sadc is the only region where tyranny continues to thrive. West Africa, notorious for its military dictators only a few years ago, has turned the corner.
Nigeria has just held its democratic elections. Although there was some fighting, Goodluck Jonathan is now safely back on the throne.
The events that unfolded in the Ivory Coast that saw former president Laurent Gbagbo refusing to relinquish power until he was pulled out of a hole like a rabbit, also show that West Africa, which supported the declared winner Alassanne Ouattara, no longer tolerates wanton disregard of the popular will.
That southern African remains the only outpost of tyranny on the continent is a great indictment of the regional bloc which has remained steeped in the politics of revolutionary camaraderie much to the detriment of regional development.
But how can the regional bloc continue to remain relevant when in the past 10 years or so it has failed dismally to solve a single problem? How much longer should the southern African people continue to tolerate a body which is in effect only just “a piece of sublime mysticism and nonsense”?
Sadc was founded on ideals which it has failed to live up to. It is now a conservative club which promotes repression rather than fight against it.
Repression in Zimbabwe is epitomised by Zanu PF’s unilateralism even when it is part of a negotiated settlement.
Zanu PF is behaving as if it alone constitutes a legitimate government in Zimbabwe. It and its leadership want to wish away the fact that they lost an election in March 2008 and are only in government by the grace of Sadc which under the tutelage of former South African President Thabo Mbeki gave it a lifeline.
Zanu PF would like to give us the impression that its Soviet-style politburo has by some dint of fortune the power to dictate when elections can be held in Zimbabwe. This unfortunate grandstanding is based on some flimsy thinking that the general populace still has something to thank Zanu PF for.
Zanu PF’s national spokesman Rugare Gumbo should know better. He is a revolutionary who spent most of his productive years fighting for this country, but last election his people rejected him and instead chose an unknown broadcaster because they wanted something new and refreshing.
Gumbo is Zanu PF’s loud-hailer shouting politburo mantras of certain electoral victory without once reflecting on the lesson he was taught in Mberengwa.
Zimbabweans are a peaceful people who believe that elections will one day liberate them from tyranny.
In the past decades they have watched helplessly as their will has been trumped upon by a regime bent on remaining stuck in the past because it thinks it is god-ordained to rule this country.
Now is the time to be bold. Let Zanu PF bring the election and let Zimbabweans brew the shocker that will liberate us. It happened with the election of the Speaker of parliament. It can happen again.