The beginning of the end of Robert Mugabe has started

OPINION – Like it or hate it, the truth is that the countdown to the end of Robert Mugabe’s iron fist rule of Zimbabwe has just started, albeit unofficially.

Going by reports that Mugabe had difficulties in getting off a chartered Air Zim flight to Livingstone and that he had to use a golf cart to move accompanied by massive entourage of 60 plus, Zanu-pf needs to act with speed and find a replacement sooner rather than later. In contrast to Mugabe’s huge entourage other leaders had smaller delegations e.g. 12 for Jacob Zuma and only 4 for Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

Ironically, the beginning of the end was signaled by Robert Mugabe himself when he attacked his long time ally and SADC accusing them of interfering in Zimbabwe’s internal affairs when he was addressing a meeting of his Zanu-pf party in Harare on Friday 1st April 2011. Saying that he won’t brook interference, Mugabe may not have known that he had lit a fire he would not be able to put out.

Adding fuel to fire

To make matters worse like adding fuel to the fire, the Zanu-pf orientated Sunday Mail was not going to watch it’s leader fighting a lone battle. In statements attributed by news agencies to the Sunday Mail which has been inaccessible online for several months except the Herald and the not so-up-to-date Zimpapers frontpage, the paper accused President Zuma, the SADC mediator on the Zimbabwe crisis of being a dishonest broker and of betraying Africa by voting for a no-fly zone over Libya at the United Nations Security Council.

‘Mr Zuma’s duplicity is astounding. With such leaders, Africa is in mortal danger," the paper is quoted as saying in its attack on the South African leader (The Zimbabwe Mail, 03/04/11).

Words like that can never be exchanged between friendly countries even when they may not have been officially communicated. In fact the way the government controlled media communicated what amounts to the ‘party’s response to the SADC Troika’s communique’ contributed to a major diplomatic fiasco which had been started by the Supreme Leader.

Diplomatic tiff

By playing down the diplomatic tiff claiming relations between the two countries remained ‘warm and cordial’, Jacob Zuma’s office risks playing double speak on Mugabe and being seen as indeed weakness in dealing with a dictator who is on his way out albeit reluctantly. As a sign that Zimbabwe’s neighbour south of the Limpopo was far from amused by the undiplomatic language from Harare, Zuma’s office reminded that governments have their own channels of communication.

Considering the sacrifices South Africa has made for Zimbabwean refugees and more specifically how Jacob Zuma has gone out of his way to try to rescue Robert Mugabe from the mess that he is in, even an infant would never be expected to misfire like Mugabe’s propagandists did with their overkill.

Lost credibility

Critics of Jacob Zuma feel that this could be the only opportunity left for his administration to regain credibility lost by withholding a report on the role of Mugabe’s soldiers in election violence in Zimbabwe despite court orders.

What incenses pro-democracy activists are ongoing efforts by the Zuma government to appeal against South African Supreme Court rulings that the report be released to the Mail and Guardian especially as there are fears of further election violence in Zimbabwe.

There was also the case of the Chinese ship which tried to offload a consignment of weapons and ammunition destined for Harare only to be forced to return to China when progressive workers refused to off-load it and friendly civil society organizations secured a court order barring the ship from offloading its deadly cargo due to Mugabe’s bad human rights record. One would have expected the South African government to take a firm stand against the attempted import of weapons by the Zanu-pf regime.

The remaining question is: Why is Jacob Zuma so protective of Robert Mugabe even at his own expense?

Clifford Chitupa Mashiri, Political Analyst London, zimanalysis2009@gmail.com