No light at end of Zanu PF’s tunnel

CONFIRMATION of the appointment of former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa at the just-ended African Union summit in Banjul as mediator in the protracted Zimbabwean crisis was an encouraging, yet at

the same time disturbing, development.

While the initiative undoubtedly shows that President Robert Mugabe now accepts mediation — which he has been resisting — it is worrying that Mkapa’s terms of reference and mandate are vague.

Firstly, it is not clear who appointed him. While the British have welcomed his assignment (he sat on Tony Blair’s Africa Commission) his mission does not originate in Whitehall and there is privately much scepticism about his prospects.

Several questions arise: What sort of mediator is he going to be? Between whom is he mediating? It is also not clear what his objectives are or who will underwrite his mission.

We are told this is a regional initiative. What consultations with other parties were undertaken? Kofi Annan has said the UN will provide the necessary space and time. Words have also been put into his mouth by Zimbabwe’s official media on the lifting of sanctions.

If the process leading to Mkapa’s appointment was flawed, so will be the outcome. There is simply no way his mission will succeed if it is going to be guided by undeclared agendas and interests.

Mugabe claims Mkapa will be mediating in an alleged “bilateral dispute” between Zimbabwe and Britain arising from the disastrous land reform programme. This is not a view accepted by the European Union, the United States, Canada or Australia. They see the root problem as Mugabe’s misrule.

Mugabe also claims Annan has agreed with him that targeted sanctions against him and his cronies were the problem.

In Mugabe’s logic, this means Mkapa will be working to convince the EU and US to lift the sanctions imposed on him and others for misrule and human rights abuses associated with the land issue and elections.

From that faulty premise, Annan and Mkapa will overlook urgent issues of political and economic reform. In other words they will have to ignore the prevailing political impasse created by disputed elections, human rights abuses — dramatised by Operation Murambatsvina and the humanitarian crisis that followed — and a plethora of man-made socio-economic problems wreaking havoc on the nation such as inflation (1 193%), unemployment and poverty, HIV/Aids, capital flight, de-industrialisation, emigration and the general collapse of the social service delivery system.

In brief, Mkapa will not be interested in the institutional breakdown, the constitutional impasse, or policy and leadership failures. He will be required to ignore structural issues and instead put on a normal footing Mugabe’s relations with Blair and secure the removal of sanctions. Mkapa and Annan are being portrayed in Harare as Mugabe’s envoys, not mediators.

But Mugabe’s story is full of contradictions.

He says Zimbabwe’s economic problems were caused by sanctions — imposed in 2002 — but everybody knows that problems such as the shortages of foreign currency, fuel, exchange rate crash and balance-of-payments disequilibrium were there before the land reform programme and sanctions.

Mugabe last week also exposed himself when he claimed Western countries that want to rescue Zimbabwe from its crisis “depend on us”, yet at the same time they were the ones undermining our economy.

How does that happen?

He also says he does not want a foreign solution to the Zimbabwe question but insists on negotiating with a foreign power over what are essentially domestic problems.

Is this not the same Mugabe who used to ride in the Queen of England’s carriage and received an honorary knighthood from the former colonial power? Does this explain his insistence on talking to Blair and not to Zimbabweans?

What kind of bridges does Mugabe want to build with Blair which he can’t build with the local opposition leaders like Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara?

Why does he want a summit with the British instead of an all-stakeholders conference — Codesa-style — with Zimbabweans?

This sort of posturing is damaging to Zimbabwe’s national interest. It exposes the sovereignty lie which Zanu PF seeks to market to its gullible supporters and offers no light at the end of the long dark tunnel of the ruling party’s misrule.

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