SADC summit on Zimbabwe still an option: South Africa in u-turn

Southern African heads of state concluded a meeting on Tuesday in Kinshasa where they echoed a long-standing call for sanctions to be lifted against Zimbabwe.

However, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) suggested an extraordinary summit would not be necessary to review a power-sharing deal meant to attract up to $10 billion in investment to fix a battered economy.

But on Wednesday, South Africa’s deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe told parliament a special summit could happen to help ensure accountability among Zimbabwe’s political protagonists.

"SADC leadership … has decided that the SADC secretariat should on an ongoing basis … monitor resolution to all these outstanding issues and that if that does not produce the desired results an extraordinary summit will be convened focussing specifically on ensuring that more fillip is added to the processes of moving Zimbabwe forward," Motlanthe said.

SADC, currently chaired by the Democratic Republic of Congo, has been at the forefront of brokering the power-sharing agreement between Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe and long-time adversary Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

Mugabe and Tsvangirai signed the deal in February to end a political crisis following disputed 2008 elections, but the accord is beset with problems.

Tsvangirai alleges ongoing intimidation and torture of Mugabe’s political opponents, as well as deadlock over key appointments in the central bank.

"There is really no advantage to be gained by maintaining the status quo and Zimbabweans do understand that, that in fact there will be no second chance, this is their last chance to pull themselves out of the morass they find themselves in," Motlanthe said. 

President Robert Mugabe is old and there is little point in dealing with him as an individual, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe told the National Assembly yesterday.

“President Mugabe is of an advanced age,” Motlanthe said. “It is not very helpful to devote all our efforts to dealing with him as an individual.”

  • Motlanthe defended the Southern African Development Community’s call for sanctions against Zimbabwe to be lifted.

    The SADC had taken “a very responsible approach” to Zimbabwe and its efforts to mend its economy, he said.

    Motlanthe said the call to lift sanctions was not aimed at protecting Mugabe, 85.

    “Mugabe is an individual. The lifting of sanctions is meant to attract necessary investments into Zimbabwe so that economic recovery can take effect.

    “We know that, once political stability returns, the region can only benefit from that development,” he said.

  • Responding to questions in Parliament today, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe said South Africa supported the SADC decision.

    "So, yes, our government has added its voice in calling for the lifting of sanctions against Zimbabwe," he said.

    "It is our belief that the continued imposition of sanctions against Zimbabwe as well as its isolation weakens its ability to establish itself on a path of economic recovery and political stability."

  • Kenneth Meshoe, the leader of the African Christian Democratic Party, said he could not understand how South Africa could bolster Mugabe’s regime.

    "SADC as a region has failed the people of Zimbabwe by focusing on protecting and defending President Mugabe rather than demanding that he respect the rule of law, justice, democracy and human rights in his country," he said.

    Motlanthe said, however, that South Africa’s position was driven by a desire to help Zimbabwe to recover.

    "This call for the lifting of sanctions is not aimed at protecting and defending President Mugabe as an individual. It is meant to attract the necessary investment into Zimbabwe so that their economic recovery plan can take effect. It is not helpful to devote all of our efforts to dealing with him as an individual.

    "The truth is that problems are never solved by making wars. This is an illusion. We know that those who are militarily superior always delude themselves into believing that it is possible through military invasion to solve problems. The SADC view is that only dialogue solves problems," he said.

    This week’s SADC summit dodged discussion on the implementation of Zimbabwe’s peace pact, but said it would call a special meeting to review the cooperation between Mugabe and the opposition leader, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.