Previously South Africa and the SADC – despite the enormous economic cost to the region – propped up or allowed the regime of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe to conduct unfettered attacks on its own population with impunity in order to cling to power.
In 2008 when Britain and the United States tried to force the issue at the United Nations Security Council it was South Africa that intervened with the help of the Russians and Chinese to prolong Mugabe’s stay.
This meant with his police and army in place and outside intervention blocked Mugabe culd carry on regardless.
Things are different now.
While the obstacles still to be overcome are going to be a major challenge the shift in approach – from appeasing Mugabe to assessing what is best for all Zimbabweans – is a credit to the SADC and in particular President Jacob Zuma.
The New York Times quote a senior official in the Movement for Democratic Change Jameson Timba : “It is a new day, believe you me, from where we’ve come from in the last decade.
“Solidarity with a dictator has now been ruptured. SADC is now in solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe.”
According to the NYT Timba credited Zuma with setting the regional body, the Southern African Development Community on a new course.
The SADC special summit on Zimbabwe mandated the Organ Troika to speed up the full implementation of the Global Political Agreement by Harare’s governing parties, Sunday.
In addition regional leaders endorsed the Livingstone Troika resolutions effectively ending Mugabe’s push for elections this year unless he opts to ignore the SADC which would ensure his departure far quicker than a free and fair election.
This time nobody would run to the UN to stop the world powers from intervening – like the Arab League in Libya they’d be calling for action.
This means that the police and army would need to think very long and hard before standing up for an individual against the people of their own country.
It could cost them their lives.
The Livingstone resolutions demanded an immediate end to violence, intimidation, hate speech, harassment, and any other form of action that contradicted the letter and spirit of the GPA.
That Mugabe and his Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front start to comply with the agreement reached with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC and implement all the terms.
Importantly the summit resolved that the parties should have a timeframe for the implementation of the roadmap which will lead to free and fair elections.
What is clear is that it is vital that the SADC continue with their new approach which will usher in a free Zimbabwe which will be a valuable member of the SADC rather than the biggest drain on resources.
While Mugabe might snigger at the lessons of North Africa and the Middle East those younger than him have the burden of living on after he is no longer there.