ANALYSTS and opposition leaders have varying views over how President Robert Mugabe fared as Southern Africa Development Cooperation (Sadc) chair and also as head of the African Union, a position he is also set to pass on soon.
BY OBEY MANAYITI
Some of those interviewed last week said Mugabe was unlikely to leave any regional imprint as Sadc chairperson, especially because the position was largely ceremonial.
Opposition parties however said the President had failed to make changes on the policy front, or to proffer political and economic solutions to both Sadc and AU.
Mugabe is expected to relinquish his Sadc chairmanship tomorrow, while he will surrender his AU chairmanship in January next year.
Political analyst Eldred Masunungure said anyone who would claim that Mugabe indeed left a legacy would be making dishonest claims.
“I don’t think that is an easy task to identify the legacy he left for the regional bodies, Sadc and AU,” Masunungure said.
“It is extremely difficult to leave an imprint when you are a chairperson because those are merely symbolic positions.
“Anyone who will claim that Mugabe left a legacy will not be speaking with honesty. It is not easy for the executive secretary of Sadc or AU to leave legacies because those are executive positions,” he said.
Takura Zhangazha, a political analyst concurred with Masunungure that Mugabe was unlikely to leave a legacy as the Sadc and AU posts were ceremonial.
He said it was impossible for him to leave a mark due to the fact that there was no chance for any Sadc or AU chairperson to make unilateral decisions without all Sadc leaders having concurred.
“The office of Sadc chairman is largely ceremonial and one where decisions are made by regional consensus as opposed to executive order.
“If these facts were to be taken into account, it would mean that anyone who expects Mugabe as Sadc and AU chair to leave a mark different from that left by previous chairmen would not be speaking reality,” said Zhangazha.
“Mugabe’s chairmanship of Sadc and AU has been as routine a task as that of the next chairperson to be appointed.”
Commenting on the reforms that Mugabe had promised, Zhangazha said: “It was never going to happen.
“He was essentially playing to a regional political gallery with the full knowledge that diplomatically, his tenure was no more than routine.”
Another political analyst Charity Manyeruke begged to differ with the sentiments proffered by the two other analysts.
She said Mugabe would leave an indelible mark as he had played his role well.
“Yes, Mugabe indeed left a mark because he managed to deal with political problems in many countries that were politically volatile, for example, in Lesotho.
“When Mugabe took over there was a lot of instability, but elections were held in Lesotho and a lot of diplomatic interventions are still going on.
“In Mozambique as well, the Renamo bandits made it possible to have a crisis, but that country is now stable and there are a lot of diplomatic interventions being made.”
Manyeruke claimed the xenophobic attacks in South Africa had the potential of distabilising the region, but that Mugabe had managed to convince other leaders to help South Africa deal with the problem.
She also said Mugabe managed to put into motion discussions about inter-trade, freedom of movement as well as infrastructure development.
During the period however, Mugabe made headlines for the many trips that he undertook as Sadc and AU chair, earning himself the title “visiting President”.
During his acceptance speech as Sadc chairperson in Victoria Falls, Mugabe called for achievement of political and socio-economic stability in the region through the fostering of bi-lateral relations among nations.
“Our region has abundant resources, which resources, instead of being sold in raw form at very low prices, they must instead be exploited and beneficiated, in order to add value and cost to those products which we eventually export,” Mugabe said, adding that he was confident that a foundation was being laid for a plan of action on the beneficiation and value addition of Africa’s natural resources.
Mugabe expressed sadness on the snail’s pace of market integration and the skewed trade imbalance among member-states which were either fuelling job cuts or labour migration. On the political arena, Mugabe promised relative peace in the region and said he hoped that the situation would remain as such.
“In relation to peace, security and democracy, our scorecard remains encouraging, as the Sadc region remains one of the most peaceful and stable on the continent, thanks to mechanisms that we have put in place in the context of the Sadc Organ on Politics, Defence and Security,” he said.
His tenure was however characterised by such big problems as xenophobia in South Africa, political unrest in Swaziland, as well as the general instability of the socio-political situations in countries such as Zimbabwe and Lesotho.
More unrest emerged also on the African continent where Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza refused to step down and instead amended the country’s constitution to allow him to stand for elections for another term.
Terror organisations like Boko Haram have also been a major problem on the continent.
The main opposition, MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu said Mugabe’s tenure brought nothing positive at all.
“Robert Mugabe didn’t make any positive impact during his tenure as the Sadc chairperson. The only “remarkable” thing that he managed to do was to embark on numerous and hugely costly foreign visits to South Africa, Zambia, Mozambique and several other countries, purportedly carrying out Sadc duties,” Gutu said.
“Twelve months after he assumed the Sadc chairmanship, the political situation in both Lesotho and Madagascar remains as volatile as ever. Mugabe dismally failed to help stabilise these two Sadc problematic states.”
Gutu said with Mugabe at the helm of Sadc, the regional political and socio economic trajectory was in virtual stagnation mode.
The MDC Renewal accused Mugabe of failing to change the trade situation in the region. “His tenure was unmemorable. On the foreign policy front nothing was done that was ground-breaking,” said party spokesperson Jacob Mafume.
“Lesotho went up in flames and his role was minimal in solving the issues there. Xenophobia also raged and he was as silent as a church mouse.
“The Sadc region remains the only region where travel is restricted, unlike Ecowas and East Africa, and Mugabe also failed to rectify that,” he said.