Desperate Mugabe dispatches cronies to SADC leaders, begging

HARARE – President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF party are literally begging Sadc for support, in a desperate bid to remain in power, ahead of a make-or-break special regional summit on Zimbabwe scheduled for later this week in Namibia.\r\n

Mugabe has sent emissaries to the region, including Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa and Minister of State Security Sydney Sekeramayi, to try and mend his deteriorating relations with regional leaders.

This is despite the fact that his party openly vilified the regional grouping and its leaders on several occasions over the past two months.

However, a regional diplomat dismissed the ploy yesterday as “an exercise in futility”.

In addition to begging Sadc for support, the Zanu PF ploy also aims to divide the region so that it does not come up with a concrete and forward-leaning resolution on Zimbabwe.  Mugabe and his party hope to persuade a few regional leaders to fight in their corner to ensure that they come out of the Namibia summit without being battered any further.

Sadc, led by Global Political Agreement (GPA) facilitator, President Jacob Zuma of South Africa, is set to adopt a roadmap towards the country’s next elections when it meets on Friday.

The problem for Zanu PF is that its senior officials, such as serial political flip-flopper Jonathan Moyo, have been at the forefront of crude attacks against Zuma and Sadc, recklessly alleging that the SA facilitation team was working with Western countries to remove Mugabe.

This has seen Mugabe becoming increasingly isolated within the region. The 87-year-old leader first got a taste of the changing realities within Sadc at the Livingstone troika summit, where the octogenarian receieved a stinging rebuke from his peers for his failure to implement the GPA in full and for the continuing violence and arbitrary arrests in the country.

This is what has culminated in Mugabe dispatching emissaries to the region to try and solicit the support of regional leaders, especially Zanu PF’s perceived traditional backers such as Angola and Malawi.

Diplomatic said at the weekend that Zanu PF recently met with Sadc ambassadors in Harare as part of this agenda.“Zanu PF met with Sadc ambassadors and tried to explain to them its own side of the story. They were putting on the table arguments that political violence is happening from both the MDC and Zanu PF side.“The Sadc ambassadors were presented with a dossier prepared by the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri detailing the reported incidences of violence and frequencies according to political parties,” said the source.

The mainstream MDC party has accused the police of conducting itself in a partisan manner, arresting its members on flimsy grounds while letting Zanu PF perpetrators of violence go scot-free.

Diplomats said the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono had also met with Malawian president  Bingu wa Mutharika in Malawi last month, with a message from Mugabe.

Gono, who is a trusted aide of Mugabe, is said to have taken advantage of a meeting of Central Bank governors that was being held there to plead with wa Mutharika on behalf Mugabe.

In Mnangagwa’s case, he met Angolan Vice President, Fernando da Piedade Dias dos Santos in Luanda on Friday to deliver a special message from Mugabe and Zanu PF.

In interviews with Angolan media, Mnangangwa sought to paint a rosy picture of events in Zimbabwe, describing the working relationship between Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai as “very good.”

“The country is stable, and everything is happening in a peaceful environment,” Mnangangwa told the Angolan News Agency.

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Mozambican President Armando Guebuza received in audience, on Saturday, in the town of Mocuba, in the central province of Zambezia, the Zimbabwean Minister of State Security, Sydney Sekeramayi, to discuss matters related to political developments in Zimbabwe.

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“I was sent by President Robert Mugabe to brief President Guebuza on the latest developments of the political situation in Zimbabwe towards the completion of the amendment of the constitution that will result in new general elections in our country,” said Sekeramayi, speaking to journalists moments after the meeting.

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According to Mugabe’s envoy, the Global Political Agreement (GPA), signed in 2009 between Mugabe’s ZANU-PF and the two factions of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), is being well implemented and the three signatory parties are working together to ensure peace and stability in the country and ensure economic recovery for the benefit of all Zimbabweans.

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He claimed that Zimbabwe is at peace, urging people not to worry about what is claimed by some unnamed media.

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“I invite you all to visit every corner of Zimbabwe, whether entering by land or air, to witness that the noises that are said out there about life in Zimbabwe are nothing but lies”, said Sekeramayi.

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But the fears about violence in Zimbabwe are not the invention of any journalist, but were discussed at the recent meeting of the SADC organ on politics, defence and security cooperation, which met in 31 March.

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The SADC troika, consisting of Guebuza, and the South African and Namibian Presidents, Jacob Zuma and Hifikepunye Pohamba, issued a strong statement which specifically stated that the GPA is not being implemented.

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The statement said that the troika “noted with disappointment insufficient progress and expressed its impatience in the delay of the implementation of the GPA”.

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The troika also expressed “grave concern at the polarization of the political environment as characterized by, inter alia, resurgence of violence, arrests and intimidation in Zimbabwe”.

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In language which is unusually forceful for SADC meetings, the troika demanded “an immediate end to violence, intimidation, hate speech, harassment, and any other form of action that contradicts the letter and spirit of GPA”.

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Meanwhile, civil society groups have also been meeting with regional leaders to raise their concerns about the dire political situation in Zimbabwe – with one of the organisations working in the field of human rights producing a dossier on legally-related violations by the police.

“We are just appraising the Sadc ambassadors on the situation happening in the country now, giving them detailed information on how Zanu PF is abusing the law and also giving them our position on the issue of the Sadc Tribunal,” said a member of the civic society group which is meeting Sadc ambassadors.

Sadc ambassadors are said to have taken trips to their home capitals to brief their presidents ahead of the summit.

“It’s good that Zanu PF is talking, at least it shows that they now know that some people are watching and they ought to do things the right way,” said a diplomat from a neighbouring country.

However, other diplomats and some analysts believe the latest move by Zanu PF is an exercise in futility.

“It’s a lost cause because they were beaten to it by Morgan Tsvangirai.  It’s a late awakening and I doubt their visit will change the outcome of the 20 May meeting which will no doubt send a very strong statement that elections can only be held once the roadmap to free and fair elections has been concluded,” said University of Zimbabwe political commentator, John Makumbe.

Makumbe said the events that happened in North Africa and the Arab world would influence Sadc’s decisions at Friday’s meeting, as any implosion in Zimbabwe would have a direct negative bearing on the wider region.

Charles Mangongera, a Harare-based political analyst said Zanu PF’s actions were a clear sign of panic.

“They are worried about the kind of response Sadc will give in light of Zanu PF’s insistence that elections will be held this year. They are trying to do damage control before the situation turns more confrontational. It is a pre-emptive measure to start dealing with a fall-out. These efforts are already targeted at trying to minimise the damage.”

Friday’s meeting will, apart from dealing with the contentious roadmap and reviewing the GPA, also discuss a Sadc Justice Minister and Attorney General’s report on the operations of the Sadc Tribunal.