Zuma, SADC Stance Right

OPINION – The protest by Zanu-PF against the recent stance taken by SADC on the political impasse that Zimbabwe is facing is hardly surprising.

Mugabe has become so used to wrapping the entire SADC leadership round his little finger that he and his cronies expect that game to last forever. Unfortunately by allowing Mugabe to do as he pleased the SADC put itself in a very awkward position where its credibility has fallen to incredibly low levels. Now SADC itself has probably become the most contemptible and inept regional body in the world and has belatedly awakened to the realities of its self-inflicted predicament. If it had not acted the way it did, it would have further confirmed the long held demeaning view that it is not really worth its salt.

The people of Zimbabwe have endured indescribable suffering at the hands of Zanu-PF. Every conceivable chastisement has been meted out on the peace-loving nation for refusing to accept the unhelpful views of Zanu-PF. Many have been clubbed to death, others have been burnt alive or simply made to disappear, entire communities have had their dwellings mercilessly destroyed in what was aptly described as a man-made tsunami, and women have been raped. As result of these barbaric acts by the very people who are supposed to protect the Zimbabwean citizens millions fled their homes. So dreaded was ZanuPF’s orgy of violence that many preferred to face hungry lions in South Africa’s game reserves or crocodiles swarming the Limpopo river during their flight to freedom, to waiting like sitting ducks for the arrival of blood-thirsty Mugabe’s green bombers.

All these atrocities were repeatedly reported to SADC which, for reasons best known to itself sided with Mugabe. There are many people who lie in their graves now who would have lived if SADC had dealt with these issues seriously, conscientiously, and in a non-partisan manner. Many of these avoidable failings by SADC will remain etched in people’s minds for a long time to come and, in particular Mbeki, who is widely viewed as an enemy of the people of Zimbabwe for the utter disregard he demonstrated for Zimbabwean lives, and will probably remain detested permanently. When the much hyped Zuma arrived on the scene he was a disappointment because he and Mbeki proved to be two sides of the same coin.

While Zanu-PF is crying foul over SADC’s response, the majority of Zimbabweans remain convinced that it is too little too late. The agony they have endured is too intense to forget, and many hold the SADC responsible for choosing not to use the powers vested in it to arrest the carnage perpetrated right under its nose while it proclaimed to the world that all was well. History has been made and the actions of SADC have already gone into the permanent, intractable and unalterable records of history, written with indelible ink. They are ineradicable, and the SADC leaders will always be remembered for the part they played in the loss of so many precious lives.

Against that background, there is no doubting the euphoria in Zimbabwe at SADC’s sudden change of heart, albeit a change that was forced on it by the international community and the political changes happening across the world, particularly in the Arab countries. There is sufficient evidence to suggest that SADC had no political will to intervene in the situation in Zimbabwe in the interests of its citizens. The SADC gets credit for its recent stance, but the welcome it gets is not quite as effusive as it would have been had it come much earlier and without being prompted by the international community and the events in the Arab world. For this reason the SADC is still viewed with suspicion. The southern African body still has a long way to go to salvage its badly battered image. The success it realises in this task is down to the way it is going to behave from now on. It will have to stay focused and resolute on being seen to be scrupulously fair in its dealings with Zimbabwe’s warring political parties.

There are elements within the SADC that are reportedly lamenting the recent switch to non-partisanship and are vigorously lobbying SADC to reinstate Zanu-PF as its preferred party. Such moves should be robustly resisted by the SADC leaders who are endowed with foresight for the preservation of the body’s credibility, which by all intents and purposes has all but evaporated. SADC can ill-afford to receive any further censure at this time when the spotlight is trained squarely on Zimbabwe.

Zuma has signalled that the era of quiet diplomacy is officially over and as the chief player in resolving the Zimbabwean crisis he would be advised to refrain from wavering and give the body the right political lead. He should endeavour to deal with the problem once and far all and desist from accommodating poorly-thought-out short-cuts and compromises at the behest of die-hard Zanu-PF sympathisers that will only make the task impossible. The SADC is finally on the right track and should exercise due diligence not to be derailed from the noble course it has taken.

EU’s offer of monitoring role should not be spurned 

For Zimbabwe credible election have been an elusive thing, prompting the European Union to offer itself to play a monitoring role in an attempt to avert a repeat of the last election that yielded disputed results that led to a stalemate ending in the formation of the unpopular GNU. 

In fact Zimbabwe has a long history of elections marred by intimidation, political violence and rigging, and it has become a household name internationally when it comes to eccentricities associated with elections. Its image is badly in need of salvaging and the involvement of the UN or EU would go a long way towards achieving that.

The EU is thoroughly qualified to play such a role as it has among the best democracy credentials in the world and is scrupulously non-partisan, though some people would have us believe otherwise. Love them or hate them, the Europeans are politically mature and losers of elections will seamlessly and ungrudgingly transfer power to the wining candidate. They have practised democracy longer than anyone else in the world and there is no better place to learn democracy than Europe. In European politics there is no intimidatory rhetoric such as we have heard coming from no other than the Zimbabwean Head of state himself who proffers the view that the pen cannot be more powerful than the bullet, or his lieutenants who ominously mail menacing bullets to winning opponents.

The EU offer comes in the wake of calls by many Zimbabweans for UN-monitored elections. The calls themselves came as a result of the unending cycle of bogus stage managed elections invariably won by Zanu-PF. Zimbabweans have no confidence in the results of elections run by handpicked Zanu-PF stalwarts who know which side of their bread is buttered and make it no secret who they want to win the election. The involvement of external monitors has long been advocated by the opposition parties but ZanuPF has always instantly torpedoed the suggestion by conveniently and hypocritically claiming that Zimbabwe is a sovereign state.

The involvement of the EU or UN or both should in fact be good news to Zanu-PF because that would give it the rare opportunity to demonstrate to the world once and for all what is made of. It would give it the chance to silence its critics and exonerate itself from the accusations levelled at it in previous elections that it has always won by rigging. If it has genuinely won all the previous elections it should have nothing to fear and should relish a contest under internationally supervised elections.

Judging by the evidence observed or given during previous elections Zanu-PF has unfortunately not won the elections fairly. The party will vehemently deny this, but there has been overwhelming evidence of violence perpetrated against opposition party supporters, who have fled the country in their millions.

ZanuPF will come up with every reason to bar international monitors from participating in the elections because it is as plain as a pikestaff that for it agreeing to that suggestion is committing political suicide. There is no doubt that it would be buried alive. It will accuse the UN and the EU of being partisan, but as anyone knows, these bodies are squeaky clean and will not countenance any underhand dealing. If there is anything that petrifies Zanu-PF, it is internationally-monitored elections, for under these conditions its machinery will malfunction and its charms suffer a seizure. If Mugabe believes he is man enough to win the elections fairly we challenge him to forget about sovereignty for once and allow the external monitors to run the elections.

The reason why Zanu-PF will be adamant on keeping the external monitors outside is plain to see. While everybody is concerned about the credibility of the elections ZanuPF cronies are not worried about that, because for them the stakes are much higher. They are more concerned about the billions stashed away in secret accounts, sprawling business empires, illegally grabbed farms and heinous crimes that any legitimate government will investigate.

The onus to rope in the services of the EU or UN lies with the opposition parties, who should begin by lobbying for this development. They should not take any chances and demand that the UN and EU are allowed to play a role in the election.