Reclusive Angolan President Eduardo dos Santos, in power himself longer than his Zimbabwe counterpart President Robert Mugabe, was forthright in his criticism of leaders who held on to power even when their people have rejected them.
Formerly seen as one of Mugabe’s staunchest allies, first because of the longevity of his rule and, second, as someone who has ruthlessly suppressed dissent in the past, his about-face was refreshing.
“Countries need to put in place democratic mechanisms and understand that power can be held (only) through free and fair elections,” he said.
The Angolan summit also saw through Mugabe’s wish to have facilitator South African President Jacob Zuma removed. By re-endorsing Zuma, Sadc made a powerful statement to Mugabe that unlike in the past, the regional bloc was now ready to stand up to him.
It is now obvious that Sadc has turned against Mugabe and no longer brooks any of his shenanigans. Sadc has realised that southern Africa now has more hotspots than any other region in Africa. This, Sadc leaders may have reckoned, is a result of the bloc’s softly-softly approach to conflict resolution.
There is conflict in Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Madagascar and the DRC. Malawi has recently added itself to the list of trouble spots. Dos Santos’s plain-spoken words indicate a certain level of frustration with unresolved and nascent conflicts in the region.
Now isolated in the region, Mugabe has little room to manoeuvre; he and his party simply have to follow the dictates of the Global Political Agreement and its timelines. Free and fair elections, which dos Santos alluded to, can only come if these timelines are adhered to.
Unfortunately for Mugabe, this means his political career is grinding to an end in a manner he had never imagined. The next elections, as one of his allies Jonathan Moyo said recently, will come when it will be impractical and unreasonable for him to contest. For Mugabe, the end is nigh.