Mugabe had lost the first round of the presidential election to Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, the previous year with official results giving the current prime minister less than the 50 per cent share needed to avoid a run-off. But the opposition withdrew from the second round after many of its supporters were assaulted and murdered by Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front supporters.
While international criticism of Zimbabwe was angry and loud, South Africa – in what may come to be regarded as one of its less than glorious chapters – moved from ‘silent diplomacy’ (let Mugabe do whatever he wants) to open support of propping up the brutal regime with former president Thabo Mbeki being heavily criticized both at home and abroad.
The Sunday Times are reporting today that President Jacob Zuma, in a refreshing and commendable approach to the realities that exist both in Zimbabwe and the region, has warned Mugabe that if reforms are not implemented in Zimbabwe now then the revolts and upheavals taking place in North Africa might well be visiting his regime next.
The report says that the warning was contained in a damning report, which the Sunday Times has seen, handed to Mugabe and his partners in the unity government this week. In the report, which was presented to the recent SADC Troika on the Zimbabwean situation in Livingstone, Zambia, Zuma admonishes the three partners in the global political agreement for failing to implement positions agreed during his mediation in the Zimbabwe crisis.
An angry-looking and frustrated Mugabe left that summit in Zambia and reportedly told a meeting of Zanu-PF’s central committee that Zuma had no business telling him what to do.
Zuma said once the international community’s attention shifted from the problems in North Africa and the Arab world, indications were that Zimbabwe would be the next focal point.
"It is time the SADC must speak with one voice in impressing to all the parties concerned that the situation can no longer be tolerated. The focus that Zimbabwean parties have placed on elections without creating the necessary climate for those elections is an unfortunate sidetrack. The fact that Zimbabwean parties are in electioneering mode, and are more and more agitating for the holding of elections, while they have not done enough groundwork towards ensuring that the building blocks and institutions are firmly in place towards the holding of free, fair and democratic elections, is counterproductive."
Of course the President does not speak on matters of this importance without first having them endorsed by the government and the ANC NEC and it is an enormous improvement on the approach adopted before.
It places the interests of the people of Zimbabwe, South Africa and the SADC ahead of those elite comrades that worked together for liberation many years ago.
So too in Swaziland where the ANC has called time on the autocratic rule of King Mswati III.
In this instance Cosatu and the ANC Youth League have led the way in what can only be described as a boost to the region and the individual countries concerned. The ANC explained to Swaziland that they too had to persuade the apartheid regime that in order to progress they needed to talk to their opposition.
Through the unbanning of the ANC came a multiracial democracy which makes the same process imperative in Swaziland if that country is to progress and prosper.
In both Swaziland and Zimbabwe the government and the ANC must have people’s full support in calling for an end to tyranny.
In the case of the Democratic Alliance and Cosatu they have always been at the forefront of calling for these moves but to have the government and president Zuma leading the charge makes real change a possibility in both countries.