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Tired Sadc leaders tackle Zimbabwe

Lindiwe Zulu, South African leader, Jacob Zuma’s international affairs advisor aptly summed up the mood in Sadc in June when she said: “The simple fact is that people are tired”.

The region has, for almost a decade now, been trying to solve the political impasse in Zimbabwe, but has been met with limited success.

The signing of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) in 2009 was a milestone in solving the political stalemate in Zimbabwe, but the warring parties have remained poles apart and the inclusive government is nothing more than a marriage of convenience.

For the past two years, Zanu PF on one hand and the two formations of the MDC on the other, have failed to agree on many of the points that would have made the unity government more tolerable.

Already Zanu PF wants an end to the inclusive government while the other two parties want it to remain at least for a while longer, further proving that the parties cannot agree on anything.

But the most telling comment was from Botswana Vice-President Mompati Merafhe, who said the Zimbabwe issue had consumed Sadc and had stalled other economic agendas, which the region should have prioritised.

“I told the summit on behalf of my president that we are fatigued because the issue on Zimbabwe is taking forever,” Merafhe said in June.

“The most distressing part is that Sadc’s economic agenda is now digressing because we dissipate our energies talking about Zimbabwe.”

On the eve of the Angola summit, the Zimbabwean negotiators met in South Africa and, as usual, the same things that they have failed to find common ground on, like sanctions and the appointment of governors and ambassadors, will pop up, with the parties at each other’s necks.

As previous cases have proven, it will be no shock if all sides return claiming victory from the summit as has happened from the past summit, yet there will be no movement on the so-called outstanding issues.

Political analyst, Trevor Maisiri reckons fatigue had crept onto the region regarding the Zimbabwe issue and Zulu was only echoing the sentiments of other countries in Sadc. “Everyone is tired of the Zimbabwean issue. It’s only that Zulu seems to have the liberty and diplomatic opportunity to express herself,” he said.

Maisiri said if the region failed to resolve the Zimbabwe crisis by year-end, the region was likely to refer it back to the African Union (AU) as the continental body had mandated Sadc to mediate.

“The Angola summit is going to be a critical watershed in how the Zimbabwean situation scales up or down,” he said.

“Remember that the Sandton meeting seemed to take a bit of a mild stance on Zimbabwe.

“So if the Angola meeting takes the same shade, then we are likely to see a continued deterioration of the Zimbabwean situation.”

Maisiri, of the Africa Reform Institute, pointed out that Zanu PF may be trying to frustrate the mediation process by calling for the replacement of Zuma as facilitator.

The party argues that Zuma cannot be the Sadc Troika chair and be the facilitator as this will mean he will be essentially reporting to himself.
Media scholar, Brilliant Mhlanga, on the other hand, maintains that Sadc has become weary because of the “cry baby” attitude of the two MDC formations.

“What frustrates the Sadc leaders is the clear sign that Zimbabweans cannot even attempt to sit at the table of Brotherhood, as Zimbabweans, to solve their own issue — thus implying that for any small issue, someone has to cry to Sadc,” he noted.

Mhlanga said Sadc could not continue being seized with problems of one country as this was wearing it down, meaning regional leaders would not apply themselves fully to solving the crisis.

He supposed that Zanu PF could be stalling or frustrating the negotiation process so they could come up with an upper hand.

“When negotiating, you take note of both the normative and pragmatic approaches. Zanu PF is proving to be good at it,” Mhlanga said.

“Pragmatic approaches are good at stalling the process, thereby causing frustration and can get you what you want. They always work if you have a point of weakness to exploit.”

The media scholar pointed out that the weakness that Zanu PF was likely to exploit was Zuma’s double role and the party would call for the South African leader to recuse himself and the fact that the party had expressed disquiet about Zulu.

“When mediating, you have to strive to retain your integrity at all costs, because if any of the negotiating parties complain about you, that automatically dents your stature,” he said.

“Even in future, they can still point to your inadequacies. This is what Zanu PF is doing.”

He pointed out that MDC-T had done the same when it complained about former South African President, Thabo Mbeki’s mediation.

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