Mugabe runs out of friends

OPINION – If Africa "is in mortal danger", as suggested by the Zimbabwean government-owned Sunday Mail in an editorial at the weekend, it is not because of Zuma but because of Mugabe and other autocratic rulers, hell-bent on violently suppressing their people's will for democracy and justice.

Yes, Zuma has his own blunders, the latest being his government’s vote in favour of a UN Security Council resolution that gave Western powers justification for bombing Libya.

But the truth is that our former colonisers would have little excuse to interfere in Africa’s affairs if the likes of Mugabe, Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi and the Ivory Coast’s Laurent Gbagbo observed basic democratic practices. 

In the clearest indication yet that the cosy relationship between Mugabe’s regime and the South African government is a thing of the past, Mugabe, the Sunday Mail and the ruling Zanu-PF’s recently returned prodigal son, Jonathan Moyo, this weekend issued blistering attacks on Zuma’s handling of the peace process in that country.

"President Jacob Zuma’s erratic behaviour is the stuff of legends," commented the Sunday Mail in an editorial.

"The problem with Mr Zuma now is that his disconcerting behaviour has become a huge liability, not only to South Africa but also to the rest of the continent," it said.

"Mr Zuma’s duplicity is astounding. With such leaders, Africa is in mortal danger."

In the same edition, Moyo weighed in with his own missive: "Zuma can no longer be trusted, if ever he was.

"The way that the SADC troika is behaving on the Zimbabwean situation against the backdrop of how South Africa, Nigeria and Gabon voted with the African enemy . against Libya shows beyond doubt that the time has come for a major rethink in Zimbabwe on who our friends are or should be."

It is all part of an old Mugabe strategy – he brands everyone who refuses to turn a blind eye to his continued human rights abuses and suppression of opposition voices as either an imperialist or a puppet of Western powers.

Zuma’s "crime" is that he is no longer willing to treat the octogenarian Zimbabwean ruler with kid gloves and is demanding that Mugabe implement all the agreements he signed with MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai and another opposition leader, Arthur Mutambara, in 2008.

At the Southern African Development Community troika meeting in Zambia’s Livingstone on Thursday, Zuma led the charge as regional leaders pressured Mugabe to stop violence and intimidation of opposition supporters.

 

According to a South African government official who was at the meeting, Mugabe treated his counterparts with disdain.

He dismissed their concerns about the increasing violence as highly exaggerated.

At one stage, the official said, Mugabe dismissively told the meeting, which was also attended by Tsvangirai, that "there is violence everywhere, there is even violence here in Zambia".

Mugabe’s arrogance at the meeting was shocking but understandable. After all, for many years the SADC danced to his tune every time the Zimbabwean crisis was brought before its leaders.

So disdainful of regional leaders is Mugabe that he would keep a very prominent head of state, now retired, waiting for hours at his official residence in Harare while he "rested" before their meetings.

But what Mugabe does not realise is that the tide has turned against him and the balance of forces in the region is no longer in his favour.

For far too long, the SADC has shielded Mugabe from international pressure in the misplaced belief that he will eventually see the light and reform.

Mugabe’s antics over the past two years, however, have left the SADC states with egg on their faces as he used every trick in the book to avoid real sharing of power with the opposition.

Now they are gatvol.

If he wants to be remembered as the president who finally resolved Zimbabwe’s long-running crisis, Zuma has no option but to remain resolute in his demand that Mugabe honour his word.

Zuma will be labelled an imperialist puppet, no doubt, but at least this approach might yield far better results than what we have seen over the past decade.

Moyo says that it is time Zanu-PF had "a rethink" about who its friends are. He’ll soon discover that it no longer has any. This article was first published in the Timeslive