Neutrality of South African mediators questioned

The neutrality of the South African mediators in the ongoing Zimbabwe crisis talks was questioned this week, after the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party issued a solidarity message with ZANU PF at the end of the 5-yearly congress in Harare.

ANC National Executive Council member, Tokyo Sexwale, who is also the South African Minister of Human Settlements, said they had come to the congress to ‘support your deliberations and express our solidarity with the conference’. The statement went on to wish ZANU PF well in consolidating ‘your democratic rule.’

It is worth remembering that ZANU PF lost the March 2008 elections to the MDC and resorted to a campaign of violence and murder to force a situation that eventually led to the government of national unity. Over 200 opposition activists were killed while tens of thousands were beaten and tortured. One analyst said it was shocking Sexwale could talk about ZANU PF’s ‘democratic rule’ when events showed the complete opposite. He said this exemplified the ANC’s ‘see no evil, hear no evil’ approach to the Zimbabwean crisis.

South African President Jacob Zuma appointed a team of former cabinet ministers to help facilitate negotiations between the two MDC formations and ZANU PF. This came about after Prime Minister Tsvangirai’s MDC party walked out of cabinet, citing a number of outstanding issues in the implementation of the power sharing agreement.

There had been hope that with Mbeki’s ‘quiet diplomacy’ finally out of the way, Zuma would take a tougher line on Mugabe. But this week’s statement from the ANC has now put into question the neutrality of these new South African mediators.

Writing on his blog, Robb Ellis said; ‘When Tokyo Sexwale stands up at the just completed ZANU PF congress and declares undying gratitude to ZANU PF because of their support of the ANC during the South African liberation struggle, then we have to realize that the deck is stacked hugely against the MDC.’ He also pointed out that the fact that the negotiations had been suspended to allow for the ZANU PF congress ‘then we had to take cognizance of the evident position of strength that ZANU PF work from.’

At the end of the congress ZANU PF issued a long list of defiant positions, claiming there was not going to be any negotiating over the appointments of Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono, Attorney General Johannes Tomana and the swearing in of Roy Bennett as Deputy Agriculture Minister. The remarks, Ellis said, showed the ‘unity government is now living on borrowed time.’

Journalist Denford Magora had a more brutal assessment of the situation. He said people read too much into the Congress of South African Trade Union’s (COSATU) tough stance on Mugabe as evidence that Zuma will be "forced" to deal with Mugabe.

‘The truth of the matter, of course, is that COSATU made the noises they made about Zimbabwe as a way of adding to their grievances against Thabo Mbeki. It was about internal politics. They used Zimbabwe to show Mbeki up yet again as an incompetent leader who needed to be replaced. Now that this has happened, they are quiet and will not risk breaking up the ANC Tripartite Alliance over Mugabe and ZANU PF.’

With the regional SADC grouping continuing to tread softly, Mugabe still has no incentive to behave.

As Zimbabweans continue to suffer, all they can do is hope. SW Radio Africa